The Most Common Work-Related Injury in the US

The Most Common Work-Related Injury in the US

Peter Lucier, HIS

Do you have a noisy job? You may love what you do, but it’s important to do it safely! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that hearing loss is currently the most common workplace injury affecting 22 million people in the United States who work in environments where they are exposed to hazardous levels of noise daily.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

One of the most common causes of hearing loss is caused by a loud noise which can affect anyone of any age. We collect sound with our ears, but we listen and comprehend sound in our brain. When the tiny hair cells of the inner ear, which deliver sound to our brain become damaged we experience hearing loss. Commonly underestimated, today we understand that hearing loss can cause a strain on relationships in every aspect of your life affecting performance and earnings at work and devastating home life. This can lead to chronic depression, loneliness, and social isolation as well as an increased risk of cognitive decline, accidents, and hospitalizations. 

How Loud Is Too Loud?

The loudness of sound is measured in decibels (dBA) and any sound over 85 dBA can damage your hearing permanently by creating vibrations severe enough to shatter the tiny cells of the inner ear. The Department of Labor reports that more than $240 million is spent annually to compensate employees suffering from noise induce hearing loss.  

Contrary to popular belief, people exposed to long-term, moderate noise are more likely to suffer from hearing loss in comparison to those who work in a severely noisy environment.  This may be attributed to the fact that it’s not just the level of sound but the length of exposure. At 85 dBA it takes 8 hours of constant exposure for damage to incur. However, at ten decibels higher it only takes an hour. While people who work around loud equipment are more likely to take hearing protection at work seriously, those exposed to a lower level of dangerous sound may go without. It can take years for hearing loss at a slow level to progress to a point where it’s even noticeable and by then many of the negative side effects of hearing loss are already well underway!

Protecting Hearing on the Job

In response to statistics showing a lower sense of importance among workers in moderately noisy environments, the Department of Labor launched the “Hear and Now” campaign to find more innovative ways to bring awareness to workplace hearing hazards.  In addition to awareness around hearing protection, the “Hear and Now” campaign also calls for better technology to combat hearing loss and protect hearing health.  This includes better hearing protection such as custom earmolds, which ensure a tighter and more reliable fit. It also promotes the use of ear plugs that filter out very loud noises while letting in quieter ones allowing for easier detection of music and voices.  

A Call for More Regulations

One thing which can progress the cause for safer practices across working environments is new and improved regulations from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) which is currently operating under outdated understandings of hearing risks. Updating NIOSH standards, it could have a serious and important improvement to the protection of millions of US workers, their health, and their quality of life.

Raising Awareness Around Hearing Loss

Protecting your hearing starts with you but it can spread quickly. Be sure to know the decibel level in the place you work. If the average decibel level exceeds safe listening standards make sure to wear hearing protection. By being an example, you can inspire your co-workers to wear hearing protection and even change the hearing safety culture in your workplace. While industry requirements may force employers to implement safety regulations it’s   through education that can help us and others take care of our ears – slowing the rise of work related hearing loss 

Schedule a Hearing Exam

Aside from prevention is understanding of the condition. Hearing loss caused by noise is irreversible, but it can be treated effectively with hearing aids, helping you to stay alert on the job and connected to the people in your life. Take your hearing health seriously and schedule a hearing exam today! We can help find the best treatment just for you!