How often do we take job-related hearing hazards into account? Apparently not enough, but the truth is, hearing loss isn't only confined to those who frequently attend loud concerts.
Each year, millions of workers in the United States are exposed to extreme noise on the job. Manufacturing, in particular, is one industry where hearing loss is a leading job-related health condition.
How loud is too loud?
Workplace sound is measured in decibels (dB). According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), sounds at or above 85 dB can lead to hearing loss.
At sounds between 91 dB and 112 dB, ASHA suggests wearing earplugs or earmuffs. Sounds at 120 dB and above aren't safe for any period of time.
According to sound insulation company Acoustic Surfaces, airport ground staff are exposed to the most occupational noise (140 dB) followed by:
- Formula One drivers - 135 dB
- Construction workers - 120 dB
- Nightclub workers - 115dB
- Rock musicians - 110 dB
- Factory and farm workers - 105 dB
How do I know if my work environment is too loud?
You may not be able to accurately measure dB level by ear, but ASHA says that's not necessary. Your workplace environment may be too loud if you notice any of these signs:
- You have to raise your voice to be heard
- You're unable to hear someone at a distance of three feet
- After leaving a noisy environment, speech from others sounds are muffled
- You experience tinnitus (ringing in ears)
In addition to hearing loss, a noisy work environment can lead to:
- Increased blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Upset stomach
- Sleep disturbances
A noisy work environment can also lead to accidents due to:
- Inability to hear alerts and signals (such as forklifts or equipment problems)
- Inability to focus or pay attention, possibly leading to dangerous errors
How can job-related hearing loss be prevented?
Occupational Safety and Health Magazine offers some tips that both employers and employees should take into account. It all comes down to ear protection.
Considering earplugs is a good start. The inexpensive soft, elastic foam earplugs are usually effective at reducing the amount of noise workers are exposed to.
For the loudest work environments, earmuffs may be a more suitable option. They are designed to fit all head and ear sizes, and unlike earplugs, they aren't disposable.
If your job requires frequent communication, employers should consider offering advanced hearing protection devices. There are two types:
- Protective hearing solutions. These adapt to sound levels, offer more protection with an increase in noise, and allow workers to hear clearly when the noise level is reduced.
- Protective communication solutions. These allow workers to communicate clearly during noisy conditions.
If you have suffered hearing loss due to the nature of your job, you may be eligible to file a workers' compensation claim, but it can be difficult. Proving that your hearing loss was caused by your job and obtaining benefits can be even more difficult.
That's why it's best to consult with an experienced Ohio attorney who knows how to advocate for workers who have sustained long-term health conditions on the job. The legal team at Hochman & Plunkett Co., L.P.A. can ensure that the filing process goes smoothly and maximize your chances of receiving benefits.
To get started, contact our law office online today to speak to one of our attorneys.