Hearing loss is something that can occur gradually from aging, or suddenly
How Employees Can Protect Their Hearing at Work
Many employees work in loud environments. Construction workers, people in the entertainment industry and factory workers all regularly experience sounds above the safe 85 decibel (dBs) threshold which could potentially damage their ears.
Unfortunately, once your hearing is damaged, it can be difficult to undo it. There are no medical interventions that can go in and fix the inner ear. Therefore, prevention is always better than cure.
Defining What’s Too Loud
As discussed in the introduction, most qualified audiologists consider 85 decibels to be the safe threshold. This is about the same level of noise you’d find in a loud restaurant, a cinema or in your car traveling at high speeds. It’s also roughly the level of noise that food processors generate.
Of course, exposing yourself to sounds around 85 decibels won’t damage your ears immediately. However, prolonged exposure, day after day, could begin to cause damage.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), for instance, says that employers must offer workers hearing protection if sound levels average more than 85 decibels over an eight-hour shift. They must also ensure that employees wear sound-mitigating devices when average noise levels exceed 90 decibels.
The reason for this has to do with the potential damage that loud noises can cause. For every one decibel noise levels rise above 85dBs, the greater the risk of hearing loss. Listening to the sound of shop tools, truck traffic or a lawnmower at 90 decibels could potentially damage hearing in just a couple of hours.
Which Workers are Most at Risk of Hearing Loss?
While any job could potentially expose you to loud noise, for most roles, they’re transient. For instance, if you’re an office worker, you might hear the odd truck passing by outside or plane taking off, but these noises are short-lived and won’t damage your hearing unless they are extremely loud.
The people at most risk is those who have chronic loud noise exposure. These include:
- Maintenance workers
- Entertainment workers
- Airline workers
- Music and sports industry employees
- Industrial workers
- Construction workers
How to Protect Your Hearing at Work
If you’re worried about your hearing being damaged at work, there are many things that you can do to protect yourself.
Asking Your Boss for Hearing Protection
OSHA demands that companies provide their workers with hearing protection if average sound levels are over 85 decibels. However, in practice, this doesn’t always happen. You may work in a company where noise levels regularly rise above this threshold, but management may not be aware of it or their duty of care towards you.
If noises sound as loud or louder than a kitchen blender where you work, ask your boss to measure the sound levels in your environment. If they confirm that they are over 85 decibels, tell them that they should be providing employees with hearing protection.
Earplugs are a type of hearing protection commonly seen in the workplace. They’re typically able to reduce the level of sound reaching your ear by 20-30 decibels, meaning that you can use them to protect your hearing in sound environments up to 115dBs.
When choosing earplugs, you must find the right size and shape for your ear. Foam earplugs are generic and will fit most people’s ear canals. However, if you buy silicone varieties, or plugs made from other materials, you’ll need to ensure that they are the right shape. Vendors can either provide a selection of generic sizes or they can custom-make plugs for your ears and produce a batch of them.
Traditionally, construction and industrial workers wore earmuffs. They are highly reusable and can be taken on and off when the situation warrants it. Earmuffs are slightly less effective than earplugs, on average, but can still provide considerable noise reduction. To work properly, they must fit snugly over the ears, creating an air seal. Hair shouldn’t get in the way.
Wear Earplugs and Earmuffs Together
You can also wear earplugs and earmuffs together in extreme noise environments. The combination should offer more protection than wearing either alone. Please note though that the noise reduction rating specified on the packet is usually less than.
Learn More About Protecting Your Hearing
If you’d like to learn more about protecting your hearing, or you would like a hearing test, get in touch with Audiology Associates by calling at (888) 701-1441 today. Find out how we can help.