Every October, the National Institutes of Health launches National Protect Your Hearing Month: a public awareness campaign designed to educate Americans about noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Noise-induced hearing loss impacts people of all ages and walks of life and cannot be reversed.
People often do not recognize the signs and symptoms of hearing loss until it is too late and the condition has already progressed. NIHL is caused by frequent exposure to loud sounds. It can have long-term effects on a person’s ability to communicate and their quality of life – making it difficult to enjoy the sounds of music and nature. The good news is that NIHL is entirely preventable. By taking steps every day to reduce exposure to loud noises at home, school, and work, you can protect your hearing and enjoy the sounds of life for years to come.
How Loud is Too Loud?
Sound is measured in decibels (dB); noises at 85 dB or above can result in hearing loss. The higher the dB, the faster noise can damage your ability to hear. For perspective, a whisper comes in at 30 decibels. A motorcycle ranges at around 80 – 110 decibels. In the dangerous range are things like fireworks, concerts, and sirens – all coming in around 94 – 160 decibels.
Job-Related Hearing Loss
While many of the sources of dangerously loud noises are recreational, many men and women are exposed to loud noises on the job. When loud noises occur at work, employees are likely to be exposed to them for long periods of time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work every year.
Some of the jobs that pose an increased risk of NIHL to workers include:
- Ambulance drivers
- Bouncers and bartenders
- Construction worker
- Factory worker
- Flight crew
Preventing Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Caring for your hearing should be a lifelong habit. Simple changes can preserve your good hearing well into the golden years. At home, turn down the volume on the television, radio, and headphones. Move away from the source of loud noise to reduce the impact and intensity of loud sounds on your ears.
At work, follow OSHA regulations to prevent noise exposure, especially when working with loud machinery. OSHA guidelines to prevent hearing damage include:
- Engineering controls: physical adaptations to reduce noise at the source such as low-noise tools and sound walls and other barriers
- Administrative controls: workplace changes that limit or reduce worker exposure to loud noises may include shorter shifts and increasing the distance between workers and noise sources
Hearing protection devices like headphones, earmuffs, and earplugs are the most common way to protect employees. Surprisingly, these are not the preferred method of preventing NIHL, but can be used in addition to more overreaching and effective methods.
Experts estimate that $242 million is spent every year on Workers’ Compensation for noise related hearing loss and other hearing related conditions. Employers are required by law to protect workers from known job-related hazards. If you suffer from permanent hearing loss caused by your job, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits. These benefits can be invaluable as they cover the medical expenses you incur to diagnose and treat your injuries, as well as a portion of the income you lost while you were unable to work.
Columbia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. Represent Workers Dealing With Occupational Hearing Loss
To find out if you might be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits for hearing loss related to your job, contact a Columbia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at Chappell Smith & Arden, P.A. to schedule a free consultation by calling 866-881-8623 or contact us online.
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