Could your job be contributing to your hearing impairments? Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common cause of hearing damage. Certain jobs are simply louder than others, and workers in those fields should be appropriately concerned about their hearing.The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise on the job and an additional 9 million risk hearing loss for other reasons such as metals and solvents.Workers in high-noise professions need to equip themselves with information about occupational hearing safety and keep an open conversation with their employers.
The risk of hearing impairment needs to be mitigated as best as possible in any occupation. The following is a starter list of especially noisy jobs.
Manufacturing – The majority of permanent hearing losses suffered at work are in manufacturing. Manufacturing industries regularly expose employees to equipment and machinery which produces upwards of 90 decibels of noise over extended periods.
Construction Workers – Construction workers rank next to the highest for permanent hearing losses sustained on the job. Equipment used in building construction frequently generates noise levels of 90 decibels or greater. A study of construction workers in Washington State established that workers were exposed to 85 decibels or greater in about 70 percent of their shifts, but wore their hearing protection less than 20% of the time.
Carpenters – The Center for Disease Control reports that 44 percent of carpenters noted that they had a perceived hearing loss.
Chemicals Industry – Exposure to certain chemical compounds (especially those containing lead, toluene, n-butyl alcohol and carbon monoxide) has been known to cause increased hearing loss by itself. These certain compounds now known to combine synergistically with noise to cause increased hearing loss.
Miners – According to the CDC, 49 percent of male miners will have a hearing impairment before age 50 – versus 9 % of the general population – soaring to 70percent by 60 years of age.
Motorcycle Courier – A study of motorcycle noise, both with an without helmets, under various road conditions at speeds between 45 mph to 65 noted that the sound measured varied from 70 decibels to 128 decibels.
DJs, Bartenders and Nightclub Staff – Everyone that works in a night club – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the DJs. In a controlled study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average noise level for a standard night out was 96 decibels which is over the sound level at which employers are required to provide hearing protection. The research determined that DJs are at substantial risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs regularly surpasses safe levels.
Musicians – Across practices, studio recording and live shows, musicians are constantly surrounded by sound. The list of renowned music artists with permanent hearing impairment or tinnitus continues to grow each and every year. Well known names on the current list include Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Orchestra – Research on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced across both rehearsals and performances found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the brass and percussion sections. Another Swedish research project demonstrated that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians – 42 percent – had hearing losses greater than that normal for their ages.
Airport Staff – The sound of an airplane engine is one of the loudest occupational hazards, with sound levels at a shocking 140 dB.
Firefighters / Ambulance Drivers – The many sirens whirring accumulate over time. Numerous studies have explored the incidence of hearing disabilities in firefighters and emergency vehicle drivers with most concluding that firefighters experienced increased hearing damage compared to the general public of the same age.
Military – The number 1 disability amongst US military personnel is noise-induced hearing loss. As stated by the Deafness Research Foundation, more than 65 percent of returning combat troops from Afghanistan are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss.
Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control website states that 48 percent of plumbers claimed that they had a perceived hearing loss.