You’re probably aware that working in hazardous environments can cause employees to suffer lifelong illnesses. Firefighters are naturally at greater risk of lung damage, for example, while office workers are more likely to suffer repetitive stress injuries. But many people don’t consider the long-term effects of a noisy work environment—even though work-related hearing loss affects millions of U.S. workers every year.
Professions That Can Cause Occupational Hearing Loss
Occupational hearing loss is one of the most common causes of long-term hearing damage. Excessive noise, sudden blasts of sound, and vibrations can damage the structures of the inner ear, causing hearing loss and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). While some jobs pose a greater threat than others, workers in any environment with noise levels above 80 decibels (dB) can potentially suffer hearing damage, including:
- Industrial workers. Factory workers face the continual hum of machinery, miners are exposed to explosions, and lumbermen routinely endure chainsaws well over acceptable dB levels.
- Construction workers. Construction sites feature noises up to 140 dB, including nail guns, table saws, and jackhammers.
- Farmers. Farm laborers frequently suffer hearing loss due to heavy machinery, tools, combines, and even loud or high-pitched animal noises.
- Maintenance crews. Garbage trucks, snow blowers, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and other machines used for maintenance and landscaping can easily damage hearing.
- Entertainment workers. If you’ve ever tried to talk to someone in a noisy bar, you know how high the noise levels can get in nightclubs. Bouncers, bartenders, waiters, and other employees are all at risk.
- Ambulance drivers. Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are constantly exposed to ambulance and police car sirens, which can damage hearing in as little as 15 minutes.
- Airline workers. Flight crews are exposed to noises well over100 dB during takeoff, which they routinely experience two or three times per day. In addition, air traffic controllers, baggage handlers, and ground maintenance crews must suffer the sounds of multiple jet engines at close range.
- Music and sports industry employees. Everyone who attends a concert or sporting event is at risk of hearing damage, including the audience, musicians, athletes, and people selling concessions and souvenirs.
- Teachers. Classrooms and school hallways are more noisy than most people realize. Fire alarms, recess bells, shouting children, slamming lockers, overhead announcements, and even the hum of a classroom can damage hearing over time.
Once your hearing has been damaged, it may not be able to be restored. Any person who works amid high noise levels should wear properly-fitted ear protection to prevent further hearing damage. To find out if your job has affected your hearing, call the number above to schedule a hearing screening one of our offices near you!