Approximately 22 million American workers are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) at their job, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Noisy environments can occur in nearly every kind of job, but workers in the manufacturing, construction, utility and mining industries are at particular risk. Other employees may be exposed to chemicals that can damage their hearing. Additionally, those who work or spend time outdoors in noisy areas are also at risk.
Prolonged exposure to sounds above 85 decibels (dB) can damage your hearing, while exposure to louder sounds such as a gunshot (140 dB) can cause NIHL immediately. Loud noises can damage the tiny hairs in our inner ears, causing permanent hearing loss.
Even if you have already experienced hearing loss, there are steps you can take to minimize further damage, including:
- Wear hearing protection while on the job as much as possible. The earmuff variety is preferable, although the earplugs will also reduce hearing loss.
- If you can’t reduce the volume of a noise source, try to distance yourself from it as much as possible.
- Talk to your superiors about your concerns with noise levels and how it’s affecting your health.
- Schedule an appointment with your audiologist to test your hearing.