What is Occupational Hearing Loss?
Occupational hearing loss is a major concern for those in certain work industries, where the conditions expose workers to frequent loud noises, damaging their hearing. It is one of many workplace hazards that can cause a lifelong illness and is preventable, yet it happens more commonly than most may realize. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise per year.
Occupational hearing loss (OHL) occurs when a worker experiences a loud noise, normally reaching 85 decibels or higher. By comparison, a jet taking off at 1000 feet away is about 100 decibels. Experiencing OHL at work is another form of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which occurs when the inner ear is damaged from the intense vibrations loud noises produce. Hair cells inside the inner ear die when experiencing loud noise, and once they are destroyed, they do not grow back.
People at any age are at risk of NIHL, as it can happen in an instant by being too close to a loud noise, or over time such as experiencing loud noises at work over the course of your career. You can also be more susceptible to OHL by exposure to ototoxic chemicals. Ototoxic chemicals can be found in pharmaceuticals, asphyxiants, metals, and solvents.
Here are some sobering statistics involving OHLs and NIHLs according to the CDC:
- Hearing loss is the third most common physical issue among adults in the United States.
- Almost 12 percent of the United States working population has hearing problems, while 24 percent of them lists occupational exposures as the cause.
- Almost 8 percent of the working population suffer from tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, while 4 percent suffer from both hearing loss and tinnitus.
- NIHL affects approximately 5.2 million children and teens in the country from ages 6 to 19, as well as 26 million adults between the ages of 20 and 69.
Symptoms of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
It is important to understand the symptoms of NIHL so you can get treatment quickly. Symptoms may be immediate or may develop over time:
- Feeling of pressure in the ears
- Inability to hear high-pitched sounds
- Muffled speech
Generally diagnosed by your healthcare provider, NIHL can be determined using auditory tests and other a discussion of symptoms. Although NIHL cannot be cured, there are treatments available. It is treated with hearing aids in most cases, although if NIHL is so severe, hearing aids may not work. Another option could be cochlear implants, which is a device put inside the inner ear.
Jobs that Can Cause Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is preventable, and if you work in one of these industries that are notorious to have loud environments you can help yourself by protecting your ears. The most severe deterioration of your hearing occurs the first five to ten years at a job, so it is important to be aware and take the necessary precautions to prevent hearing loss. Some hearing safety tips are:
- Wearing OSHA certified earplugs or ear protection while at work.
- Educate yourself on what types of noises can be harmful and avoid them if necessary.
- Avoid playing music or using headphones at high volumes.
A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that over 9 million American workers are continuously exposed to decibels higher than 85 for about 90 percent of the work week. Here are the top jobs that can cause hearing loss:
- Airport staff: Jet engines can be as loud as about 140 decibels, which makes working near them one of the loudest professions to have. Aircraft maintenance workers, baggage handlers, and air traffic control workers all experience this.
- Ambulance drivers: Ambulance drivers travel to and from emergencies with their sirens blaring, sometimes reaching up to 90 decibels.
- Carpenters: Carpenters work with equipment that can produce high noise levels, such as the nail gun which produces up to 110 decibels and more depending on the worksite. Sawing equipment like circular saws are loud as well, sometimes running around 70 decibels and above.
- Construction workers: Construction workers are around heavy equipment and machinery all day, such as jackhammers, dump trucks and bulldozers, which all emit high noise levels upwards of 120 decibels.
- Farmers: Farmers consistently work with loud machinery such as tractors, combines, rotary cutters, and an assortment of others, all emitting noise as loud as 105 decibels.
- Garbage men/Sanitation workers: Large garbage trucks produce noises well over 85 decibels, sometimes reaching over 100 decibels. The large vehicles and their equipment are loud enough, but there are also trucks backing up making noise, containers being lifted and dropped, as well as travelling through high traffic areas.
- Military personnel: Those in the military are regularly exposed to gunfire, explosions, IEDs, drill-bells, and aircraft or ships.
- Miners: Miners regularly experience high levels of noise at work and must wear protective gear for their ears, nose, and mouth.
- Musicians: Musicians of all types, from rock bands playing in a club to classical musicians in an orchestra, are exposed consistently to decibels as high as 105.
- Railway workers: Railway work such as performing maintenance on trains and railway tracks experience high levels of noise regularly, as their equipment can produce decibel levels between 70 and 90, and a train passing close by can be upwards of 130 to 140 decibels.
- Subway workers: Subway workers, especially conductors, are subjected to the amplified sounds of trains leaving and entering stations, which can produce noises over 100 decibels.
- Truck drivers: Large, semi-trucks are notoriously loud, with their many parts running together, as well as travelling through congested areas.
Federal noise regulations were implemented along with other health and safety standards for the workplace back in 1970, with the opening of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, who oversees the regulations.
Piscataway Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr Protect the Rights of Injured Workers with Hearing Loss
If you are suffering from occupational hearing loss, then you need to speak to the Piscataway Workers’ Compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of Harold J. Gerr right away. Our team has years of experience and can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 877-249-4600 or 732-537-8570 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation. With our offices located in Highland Park, New Jersey, we proudly serve all clients of New Brunswick, Somerset, Piscataway, Edison, South River, Sayreville, Metuchen, East Brunswick, South Plainfield, Fords, Middlesex, Old Bridge, Iselin, Bound Brook, Perth Amboy, and Colonia.