A top workplace hazard, one that affects 22 million U.S. workers, is work-related hearing loss. It is important you have your hearing checked and monitored if you work in an environment that subjects you to noise, even if its intermittent loud noise. Hearing Health in Portland can evaluate your hearing and help you preserve it and treat your hearing loss if needed.
Once it’s gone – it’s gone
Workers at foundries, construction jobs where jackhammers and nail guns are used, workplaces that use stamping presses, firefighters, transportation workers especially at airports – but also bus terminals – and even musicians run the risk of hearing loss. Hearing loss due to workplace conditions is usually gradual that’s why its important to get a baseline for your hearing and then continue to have it checked.
Sounds are processed through thousands of tiny hairs in your inner ear. They signal the brain which then processes the signal into a sound we recognize. Once they are damaged by loud noise, they don’t grow back and you begin to experience hearing loss.
Noise injuries widespread and expensive
Noise related worker’s compensation claims accounted for $242 million in payments, according to the most recent statistics gathered by the National Institutes of Health. About 15% of individuals between 20 and 65 years old has some level of noise induced hearing loss.
Companies are realizing that exposure to noise needs to be monitored because untreated hearing damage can lead to underperformance in employees and increased chance for injury because as hearing decreases you lose situational awareness. For example, hearing loss could mean not being able to tell when a piece of machinery is malfunctioning, when a vehicle is approaching such as a forklift or hearing a siren or a back-up alarm.
What is “too loud?”
Sound is measured in decibels. Sounds of less than 75 decibels, even if you have prolonged exposure, are not likely to do any damage. The noise from your refrigerator is about 15 decibels. An average conversation is about 60 decibels. Heavy traffic noise jumps to 85 decibels and the noise from a motorcycle is 95. A siren – on a firetruck or police car – is about 120 decibels.
As an aside, you should also be mindful of your hearing engaging in some recreational activities. Target shooting, hunting, woodworking, snowmobiling, even blasting your MP3 player at a high volume can damage your hearing.
In the workplace, if you have to shout to a co-worker who is only an arm’s length away, the environment is too loud and you should be taking precautions. If you come home from work and your hearing is dull or there seems to be a “thud” around sounds or you have a ringing in your ears, you should be wary of having workplace noise induced hearing loss.
If you are having trouble understanding people on the phone or understanding what is being said during a conversation in a crowded area, you should have your hearing checked.
Safeguard your hearing
You aren’t going to get another set of ears – take care of the ones you have. Take advantage of safety programs at your workplace that involve safeguarding your hearing. If you are supplied protection devices for your hearing, use them!
The most common types of hearing protection are ear plugs. They are typically foam or some other soft material that is rolled and then inserted in the ear where they expand. Many companies use disposable ear plugs. Make sure you throw them out and get new ones if they become damaged or dirty. Store them in a container if one comes with them.
Ear muffs have foam or soft rubber that cups the ear and forms a seal to your head. They should fit snuggly, but not be uncomfortable. If you wear glasses and can’t get the muffs to fit properly you will need to go to a different style of ear protection. In some cases, ear plugs and ear muffs are worn to protect against noise damage.
There are also headsets that muffle noise but have electronics to help hear transmitted conversations.
Custom ear protection
We have experience finding the right fit with ear protection, in either the workplace or for sports enthusiasts. We can custom fit protection and help you protect your hearing with comfortable and effective devices. We have ear protection for everyone from factory workers to musicians. Call today to get a hearing evaluation and explore your options for hearing protection.