An appeals court in Wisconsin upheld a labor commission’s ruling that a former employee of Harley-Davidson suffered a nearly 85% hearing loss because of his employment at Harley-Davidson. The employee worked in the power train assembly division for 11 years. When he retired, he took a hearing test – multiple hearing tests in fact – and the results were the same: an almost 100% hearing loss in both ears.
The worker purchased hearing aids and sent the bill to Harley’s insurance provider, who contested the results. For over a year, there were additional tests, evaluations of the tests and reviews by several independent panels and experts. When it was all said and done, the appellate court found the doctors and experts’ findings did support hearing loss due to the man’s employment.
What this case illustrates is that noise in your environment, especially noise that you are subjected to for eight hours a day, five days a week, will damage your hearing if you aren’t careful. Hearing loss from workplace noise is usually gradual. To monitor your hearing abilities, get an evaluation at Hearing Health to set a baseline and then make use of the numerous products that protect your hearing.
The U.S. Department of Labor estimates 22 million workers are exposed to damaging noise at work each year. Last year, businesses in the United States paid out more than $1.5 million in penalties for not protecting their workers from noise.
Many people think a sudden loud noise will cause hearing loss. But for workers, prolonged exposure at factories where machines make noise all day, leads to hearing loss. Lengthy exposure to noise levels over 85 decibels will cause irreversible hearing loss. Most heavy machinery, according to labor department noise meter statistics, operates at a level of 120 decibels. Construction site noise is rated at 100 decibels.
Employers are realizing more and more that exposure to noise in the workplace needs to be controlled because untreated hearing loss can lead to underperformance of employees and increase chances of injury. Hearing loss causes situational awareness issues, you need to hear if a machine is malfunctioning and you need to hear sirens or alert alarms at work.
“Noise” warning signs
What should you watch for if you think your workplace is too loud? If you hear ringing, humming or static type noise in your ears after you leave the workplace, your work environment may be too loud. You should not have to shout at a co-worker if they are an arm’s length away. You should be able to carry on a normal conversation. If you can’t hear the television, radio or someone talking to you for several hours or longer after you leave the workplace, you should be wearing ear protection. Sound is processed through tiny hairs in your inner ears. Once those cells are damaged or destroyed, they don’t regenerate.
Use ear protection
If you are working on the factory floor, on an assembly line or even going from one part of the factory to another on the production floor – use ear protection. Many workplaces as well as union contracts mandate ear protection for employees but sadly, some still refuse to use protection.
Since you only get one set of ears, try out different ear protection options if you just can’t handle using the most common kind – ear plugs. Ear plugs are typically foam or some other soft material that is rolled and then inserted gently into your ear canal. They are disposable – some after one wearing or some after several – and should be stored in a container.
Ear muffs have foam or rubber cuffs that go over the ear and seal to your head. The newer models are comfortable and the band between the individual ear cuffs is adjustable and padded. Some are noise reducing so you can still hear conversations as well as loudspeaker announcements and alarms or alerts.
High tech noise cancelling headphones are for extremely loud work environments or workplace situations such as blasting for construction, where is either continuous loud noise or sudden loud blasts. They can be equipped with electronics, so you can carry on a conversation or hear transmissions though your headphones while they still cancel out sound.
Get evaluated and keep your ears healthy
It is important to get a yearly exam if you are working in a noisy environment. Call today to set up an appointment. Hearing Health can show you a wide variety of options to keep your hearing safe at the workplace and custom options are also available.