When you think of injuries happening in the workplace, you probably think of dangerous environments – like fishing on the high seas – where one wrong move could result in loss of life or limb. But that's not where most job-related injuries occur. According to recent statistics, the most common workplace injury is far more mundane in nature. In fact, most sufferers don't even realize that there's a problem until it's too late.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that 22 million workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels in the workplace every year. Of these employees, people who work in the construction, mining and manufacturing sectors are at the highest risk of developing hearing impairment. And all of these cases of hearing loss add up, with employers reportedly shelling out nearly $250 million in hearing-related disabilities.
The Dangers of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most pervasive injuries around the world, and the problem has been getting worse in recent years. This type of hearing loss occurs when the sensitive hair cells in the inner ear are exposing to harmful levels of noise for a protracted period of time. As a general rule, any sound over 90 decibels has the ability to induce hearing loss, and many workplaces have sounds well in excess of that number.
Daily exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss over time, but that's not the only problem that these job sites present. Workers in fields where noise pollution runs rampant also complain of headaches, dizziness and cranial pressure. Additionally, damage to the hearing sensors in the ears can also result in oversensitivity, causing intense physical pain whenever any loud noise is heard.
While this problem is obviously serious, there are already preventative measures in place. OSHA requires employers to post signage warning about loud noise in the workplace and, in consistently noisy environments, companies are required to provide their employees with protective devices, such as earplugs.
Sadly, however, these measures are proving ineffective. For starters, critics complain that the OSHA regulations only apply to sound levels that are too high, and that the decibel threshold for notification and protection needs to be lowered. Additionally, hearing loss experts are advocating for increased education in the workplace so that workers in these fields can be more aware of noise-induced hearing loss and the long-term problems that it can cause.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor launched a program called Hear and Now, asking the public for innovative solutions to help stem the tide of job-related hearing loss. Hopefully, those solutions will come, because with proper training and protection, workplace-related hearing loss can be almost 100% preventable.
If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!