Is Your Job Putting Your Hearing At Risk?

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Are you one of the millions of people who work in a noisy job?

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that 9 million American workers are exposed to continuous damaging noise levels for 90% of their workweek! The most alarming aspect of this is that many don’t even realize it is happening until it is too late!

Hearing loss often occurs gradually in a workplace over years, making many unaware, however, this doesn’t erase the dangerous permanent damage it can cause.

Understanding if you are exposed to noise can be difficult. Here are a few clues to help you determine if your hearing is at risk at work during your shift.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss In The Workplace

Most sources of occupational hearing hazards are from excessive noise. The intensity of sound is measured in decibels and any decibel level 85dB or higher, can start to damage hearing. It’s not only the level of exposure that must be considered but the length of exposure.

For instance, an individual can withstand sounds under 85dB indefinitely without risking their hearing – even though many report higher levels of stress when surrounded by sounds 70 dB or higher in a living or work environment. Even at 85 dB, an individual can withstand up to 8 hours of constant exposure before damage occurs and even then, the damage might be so slight that you won’t immediately notice.

However, as the decibels climb the exposure time decreases quickly. At 88 dB the same damage can occur in 4 hours and at 95dB, damage can occur in just about 15 minutes. It is important to monitor the average decibel level in your workplace to avoid unknowingly exposing yourself to damage.

Ototoxic Chemicals

Ototoxic Ants are chemicals that have been identified by OSHA as causing hearing loss and balance issues when inhaled, absorbed through the skin, or ingested.

They are found in certain pesticides, solvents, medications, and other chemicals found in workplace environments. These chemicals must be properly labeled with warnings informing individuals of the risk of hearing, but it is up to you to read the labels and practice safe handling practices.

It is recommended that ample ventilation is provided when handling these chemicals and if possible, the further away you can be, the better. If you have to handle these chemicals, proper personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn to prevent exposure to the skin or from being inhaled.

South Shore CTA

Professional Risk To Your Hearing

2019 study examined the connection between shifts at work and hearing loss. The study surveyed over 11,000 shift workers and found that those who worked the most hours and the greatest number of shifts also had the greatest prevalence of hearing loss. This makes sense since the longer the exposure to sound, the greater the risk of hearing.

There are many noisy professions including construction, manufacturing, farming, mining, law enforcement, military, and landscaping. Even so, even a busy office place could be louder than you would initially expect.

A normal conversation generally reaches 60dB, but as more people are speaking at once, the decibel level can quickly increase far past 85dB on a normal day.

Protect Your Hearing With PPE

The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) mandates that employers must know the level of exposure in a workplace and offer hearing protection to employees at no cost. Even so, because hearing loss is permanent, don’t wait for your employer to admit they made a mistake.

You can usually measure the decibel level in a room using a free app available on most Smartphones. If there is a risk of exposure to loud noise during your shift, be sure to wear hearing protection. Wear them proudly, so that other employees feel emboldened to follow suit. Most foam earplugs can reduce sound from 15 to 33 dB, which can make a big difference in a lot of professional settings.

You will still be able to hear people around you, knowing that your hearing is safe. For louder environments, try wearing well-fitting earmuffs which offer even more protection. Most importantly, hearing protection only works when it is worn correctly. Make sure you are wearing your hearing protection correctly to protect your hearing for years to come.

Treat Your Hearing Loss

If you even slightly suspect that you have hearing loss, it is always a good idea to schedule a hearing exam. We can help diagnose undetected hearing loss before it becomes a bigger problem down the line. Call today.

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Jennifer G. Mayer, Au.D., CCC-A

Dr. Jennifer G. Mayer purchased South Shore Hearing Center in January 2016. She was born and raised in Swampscott, MA. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing in 1996 from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and her Master’s degree in audiology from the Northeastern University in 1998. Dr. Mayer fulfilled her Clinical Fellowship Year (CFY) in 1999 at Hear USA and Cape Cod Ear, Nose and Throat. Following her CFY, Dr. Mayer was a staff audiologist in various clinical settings, including Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. She joined the South Shore Hearing Center staff in 2006. Dr. Mayer obtained her Doctor of Audiology (Au.D.) degree from the A.T. Still University, Arizona School of Health Sciences in 2008. Dr. Mayer’s specialties are diagnostic audiology, pediatric and adult amplification and educational audiology. Dr. Mayer is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. She is licensed by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Audiology and certified by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

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