Have You Heard? October is National Protect Your Hearing Month - Steps to Protect Against Workplace Hearing Loss
Contributed by The Babcock Law Firm
It’s estimated that 4 million people work in environments that cause hearing loss every day. Sometimes it’s a sudden loss from a shorter period of working in the midst of loud noise, but most often it’s a gradual loss that builds over time.
In addition to hazardous workplaces, there’s also a lot of people (of all ages) that end up with hearing loss from too much or really loud noises. The National Institute of Health estimates that between 13% and 18% of kids and teens between 12 and 19 years old have noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
Top 5 Loudest Jobs That Can Cause Hearing Loss
- Construction. The construction industry is one of the worst for hearing loss because many employees are contract workers or seasonal employees that come and go. Because of the constant fluctuation of workers (and other oversights), there’s little to no consistency with hearing protection.
- Manufacturing. As many as 80% of workers in the manufacturing industry suffer from hearing loss due to all of the loud equipment, compressed air and other noisy machinery. The damage to hearing is gradual and usually happens in the first years on the job. Most of the time hearing protection is available, but many workers opt not to wear it.
- Farming. Farmers are also around a lot of loud equipment -- combines, tractors, etc. -- that cause hearing loss over time. Many farmers also grow up around too much noise because the business is often passed down, so the damage can start at a very early age.
- Military. Members of the military are obviously around many different things that can cause damage to their hearing. Everything from shooting guns close to their ear to working on a ship or submarine to standing near an explosion can add to substantial hearing loss.
- Entertainment. The entertainment industry is obviously a very noisy environment, so it also makes the list for top jobs that cause hearing loss. People that work on concert staff and those that work in night clubs are examples of those that often suffering from damage to their hearing. The high-volume music is generally piped through speakers is way above the safe decibel level.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss in the Workplace
The best way to prevent hearing loss is to wear appropriate protective ear equipment when you’re working around loud machines, equipment or music. Many workers decline the ear protection because it can also block out things they do need to hear, but the consequence is gradual deafness that cannot be reversed.
Some industries are working to improve their ear protection so that workers can safely use it and hear what they need to hear to stay safe on the job.
Another way to prevent hearing loss is for companies to continue to develop new machinery and equipment that isn’t as loud or as damaging to your hearing. New techniques are being developed all the time, but that doesn’t meet the immediate need.
The final way is to move away from the noise; however, this can be easier said than done. If your job is working on a farm or on construction sites, it’s difficult to just pick up and find a new occupation.
What Can I Do If My Hearing is Damaged at Work?
If you have experienced hearing loss due to working in a loud environment that makes you unable to continue working, you may be eligible for Social Security disability benefits and/or workers’ comp. These can be difficult to obtain, though, so you have to make sure you are able to prove you’re truly unable to work and have confirmation from your doctor of the details of your disability.