Common Hearing Hazards in the Workplace

Reading Time: 5 minutes
"by " Elizabeth Lande
08/29/2019

Did you know that hearing loss due to occupational noise is one of the leading workplace injuries worldwide? Workplace noise hazards can lead to significant hearing loss, and in many cases is 100% preventable.

Repeated exposure to loud noises in the workplace can cause temporary hearing loss or a ringing in the ears (tinnitus), or can sometimes lead to permanent loss. Sometimes hearing loss can occur after a single exposure (such as a blast), but it is more common for hearing loss to happen over time. See how one of HearingLife's patrons has had success treating hearing loss that may have started in the workplace. 

 

Protecting your hearing in the workplace is a pretty simple step to prevent long term hearing loss that can stay with you the rest of your life. To be successful, it’s important to take appropriate steps and utilize the proper personal protective equipment to ensure that workplace noise hazards don’t cause permanent damage to your hearing. Below is a list of common occupational noise risks that may impact your hearing over a long period of time.

Common workplace noises that can hurt your hearing

Severe hearing loss can affect productivity, ability to communicate effectively, it can cause psychological and physical stress and can cause greater risk in the workplace. Here are some common workplace noise hazards to be aware of:

  • The use of heavy machinery in any application – Most pieces of large equipment come with a moderate amount of occupational noise. From agricultural to construction applications, waste management, industrial manufacturing and many processing plants, the equipment used to manufacture and process materials is typically large and loud. Many employers will have their own set of protocols, but it’s important to ensure you have the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) and pay attention to manufacturers' protocols too.

  • Pneumatic tools – Using high pressured air power tools comes with some hefty sound! These types of tools can cause hearing loss in the workplace over an extended period of time if the proper preventative measures aren’t enforced.

  • Impact tools – Drop hammers, riveters, and drop forges are good examples of heavy impact tools that can cause serious workplace hearing loss over time.

  • Any workplace that has consistent loud ambient noise – Amusement parks, bars, somewhere with vacuums running constantly or machines like hand driers or back pack blowers can be the cause for hearing loss due to occupational noise.

  • Workshops or auto shops – Anytime there is the constant use of high power tools, or heavy equipment that requires a variety of energy sources to operate, occupational noise risks should be taken into consideration for employees.

  • Construction work areas – Among other risks and hazards, construction zones and development areas use equipment that exceeds healthy sound levels almost daily. From hand held tools to heavy equipment, hard laborers at construction sites are exposed to occupational noise hazards almost daily.

  • Concert and sporting venues – Many people enjoy the energy of a rock concert or a big sporting event, but have you considered the damage it could be causing your ears? This includes exposure that happened way back at Woodstock

  • Military bases and airports – Whether you live and work on the base, or you work at an airport, or live near a runway, you should wear hearing protection. Unfortunately, many veterans suffer from hearing loss


Noise levels in the workplace should be monitored, and if it consistently exceed 85 decibels in an 8 hour work period, your workplace should be taking immediate action to protect workers from noise, while attempting to mitigate employee exposure to sound.¹ Typically, if amendments or alterations to equipment cannot be made, supplying workers with the proper personal protective equipment is enough to protect their hearing for the long term.

You can be proactive about hearing loss in the workplace

Being proactive in the workplace is the best way to ensure workplace noise hazards don’t leave lasting damage to worker’s hearing. If you’re concerned about occupational noise in your workplace, be sure you bring up your concerns with supervisors. You can also learn about how to apply for disability benefits with hearing loss.

Worried about a loved one's hearing? Or your own? Contact HearingLife

HearingLife's professionals have a lot of experience handling hearing loss, whether it originated in the workplace or not. It all starts with a complimentary hearing assessment* and discussion about your lifestyle and needs. We also can fit your ears for specialized in-the-ear hearing protection. 

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¹ "Hearing Conservation." OSHA 3074. US Department of Labor. 2002 (Revised). www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3074/osha3074.html Accessed August 29, 2019.