For many of us, we spend a huge portion of our life working. Whether you are passionate about your work or simply trying to pay the bills we all deserve a safe and healthy workplace. However, approximately 22 million workers in the US are exposed to dangerous levels of noise in the workplace everyday causing permanent hearing loss.
When noises exceed safe levels it can damage or destroy the tiny hairs and nerves of our inner ear responsible for transmitting audio information to our brain to be processed. As more and more of these cells become damaged we receive less sound information making hearing extremely frustrating.
Created by not only the level of sound but also the longevity of exposure, noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the most common causes of inner ear damage. That is why the workplace can be a potentially dangerous environment for our ears. A low level of dangerous sound exposure day after day for 8 hours or more can cause conglomerate damage. Sounds are measured in decibels. When the decibel surpasses 85 dB our hearing begins to be at risk. As the decibel level rises, the amount of time it takes to sustain hearing damage lessens.
A loud blast or explosion can cause irreversible damage in just seconds. Some of the most dangerous work environments for hearing loss include construction, manufacturing, auto mechanics, farming, air traffic control, the military and law enforcement.
Where the problem lies, is that hearing loss can create serious hurdles for people when striving to secede at the very jobs that may have caused hearing loss in the first place. It is hard to quickly communicate with your coworkers and your boss. You may be more likely to miss important information and warnings impacting the safety of you, your coworkers and the general public.
People who suffer from hearing loss often are passed over for promotions and raises at work, as work performance is affected. If you are on the search for a new job and dealing with hearing loss, research has shown that the numbers are stacked against you. People with hearing loss struggle have a higher unemployment rate, struggling to find employment in comparison with those with healthy hearing.
In fact, untreated hearing loss has been shown to decrease an individual’s annual income by as much as $30,000. For those with hearing loss who are employed made on average 25% less than their co-workers with healthy hearing.
When we can understand the dangers of hearing loss we can make sure to take the steps to protect our hearing. If you suspect your work environment is too loud there are several ways to be sure.
There are apps available on most smartphones that can measure the decibel level in most spaces, inside and out. If you don’t have a tool to measure decibels on hand a good way to know if your hearing loss is at risk is this: If you are at least 3 feet away from someone and you have to raise your voice to be heard then your hearing is at risk. OSHA requires employers to implement safety precautions for employees when noise averages 90 decibels over an 8-hour workday.
Ear protection, depending on the style and level of protection, can lower decibel levels anywhere from 15 to 30 decibels. Foam earplugs can lower sound in moderately loud environments but they are easy to wear incorrectly, leaving your ears at risk. Wax earplugs are a more reliable form of hearing protection as they mold to your ear canal creating a safer seal.
For louder environments like a construction site or factory, earmuffs are recommended. Earmuffs fit over your ears and create a solid level of protection while still being able to hear enough to stay safe at your job.
Treating Hearing Loss
If you are struggling with hearing at work, there is no way to reverse your hearing loss. However, hearing aids can amplify the sounds you are missing, allowing you to communicate with your boss, clients and co-workers with ease again. Contact us to set up a hearing test. We can assess your hearing and find the best hearing aids to help you to thrive in your workplace again.