Do you find yourself concerned about hearing damage from noise levels on the job? Hearing loss has lots of root causes, but the most prevalent remains noise-induced hearing loss. If you work in one of the subsequent high-noise occupations, you have reason to be concerned about your hearing. The CDC reports that 30 million employees are exposed to unsafe noise on the job and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss for other reasons such as metals and solvents. Occupational hearing safety is best tackled with factual information and an open dialogue between employers and employees. Workers should learn as much as they can about the risks.
The risk of hearing loss needs to be reduced to the greatest extent possible in any profession.
The following is a partial list of particularly noisy jobs.
Manufacturing – Manufacturing jobs account for the largest numbers of permanent hearing disabilities suffered on the job. Manufacturing positions regularly expose workers to equipment and machinery which produces over 90 decibels of noise.
Construction Workers – The second highest number of permanent hearing losses sustained at work is among construction workers. Equipment used in construction regularly generates noise levels of 90 decibels or greater. A study of construction workers in Washington State established that workers were surrounded by noise measuring 85 decibels or higher in about 70% of their shifts, yet wore their ear protection less than 20% of the time.
Chemicals Industry – Contact with certain substances (those that contain toluene, lead and carbon monoxide) has been known to cause accelerated hearing loss by itself. These particular compounds now known to combine with noise resulting in increased hearing loss.
Miners – Reported by the CDC, 49 percent of male miners are expected to have a hearing disability before age 50 – compared with 9 % of the general public – rising to 70% by age 60.
DJs/Bartenders/Bar Staff – Everyone that works at a nightclub – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the DJs. In a controlled research study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in popular nightclubs. The average level for a normal night out was 96 decibels which is over the sound level at which the provision of hearing protection is mandatory for employers in industry. The study came to the conclusion that DJs are at sizeable risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs regularly exceeds safe levels.
Musicians – Between rehearsals, recordings and concerts, musicians are constantly surrounded by sound. The list of famed music artists with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus keeps growing each year. Popular artists on the current list include Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, George Martin, Phil Collins Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Band & Orchestra – Research on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced across both rehearsals and performances found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the brass and percussion sections. A different Swedish research project revealed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians (42%) had hearing losses greater than that expected for their ages.
Airport Staff – The noise of a jet engine is among the loudest auditory occupational hazards, with sound levels at a stunning 140 decibels.
Firefighters – The many sirens whirring add up over time. Numerous research studies have explored the prevalence of hearing problems in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most concluding that firefighters suffer accelerated hearing loss relative to the general public of similar age.
Military – The number 1 disability among United States military personnel is hearing loss. According to the Deafness Research Foundation, over 65 percent of returning combat troops from Afghanistan are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss.