Do you find yourself worried about hearing impairments from excessive noise levels on the job? Noise-induced hearing loss is the single most frequent cause of hearing damage. Some professions are simply louder than others, and workers in those fields should be reasonably concerned about their hearing. The CDC reports that 30 million workers are subjected to hazardous noise at work and an additional 9 million risk hearing loss from other agents such as metals and solvents. The best thing that you can do is to keep yourself well-informed about the dangers of noise and have a candid conversation with your employer.
Below is a starter list of jobs where hearing impairment is a major problem.
Manufacturing – Manufacturing jobs account for the largest numbers of permanent hearing disabilities suffered on the job. Manufacturing positions regularly expose employees to equipment and machinery which produces upwards of 90 decibels of noise over extended periods.
Construction – Construction workers rank next to the highest for permanent hearing loss disabilities sustained in the workplace. Construction equipment routinely exposes staff to heavy machinery that generates upwards of 90 decibels. A Washington State study of construction workers found that in spite of being exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels during 70% of their shifts, construction workers only wore ear protection 20 percent of the time (or less).
DJs and Nightclub Staff – Absolutely everyone that works at a nightclub – bartenders, security, wait staff – is at risk, not just the musicians. In a controlled research study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average noise level for a normal nightclub outing was 96 decibels which is above the 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 frequently exceeds safe levels.
Musicians – Between rehearsals, recordings and live shows, musicians are constantly surrounded by sound. The list of famed music artists with permanent hearing impairment or tinnitus keeps growing each year. Well-known names on the current list include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, George Martin, Phil Collins Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Ludwig van Beethoven.
Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced during both performances and rehearsals found that the brass section averaged 95 decibels while the strings and brass section averaged 90 decibels. Top volumes were 130 decibels in the percussion and brass sections of the orchestra. A different Swedish research project demonstrated that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians had hearing losses higher than that expected for their ages.
Airport Staff – The sound of a jet airplane engine is one of the loudest auditory occupational hazards, with noise levels at a shocking 140 decibels.
Firefighters – All of the sirens whirring add up over time. Several studies have investigated the frequency of hearing problems in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most finding that firefighters experienced accelerated hearing damage when compared with the general public of the same age.
Military – The primary disability amongst US military personnel is hearing loss. Up to a whopping 65% of troops returning from combat in Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
Agriculture – Farmers are routinely subjected to excessive noise and the use of ear protection among farm and agricultural workers is uncommon. Studies of male farmers found that by age 30, 25 percent already had a hearing loss. By age 50, the rate of hearing impairment soared to half.