If you find yourself struggling to hear conversations, the TV and other sounds, do not pass this off as simply a sign of aging. Your job may be the culprit.
The Hearing Health Foundation reports that, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 20,000 workplace hearing loss cases occur each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that workplace hearing loss accounts for 24% of all such loss in this country.
Workers most at risk
Although the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health strongly recommends that employers not expose workers to noise levels higher than 85 decibels during a normal 8-hour work day, it also estimates that at least 30 million American workers must endure noise levels high enough to impair their hearing, sometimes permanently.
Perhaps not surprisingly, if you work as one as the following, you face a substantial risk of lasting hearing damage:
- Airline crew member
- Ambulance driver or EMT
- Construction worker
- Lawn maintenance worker
- Manufacturer or factory worker
Understanding noise levels
Decibels are the units of measurement used to quantify the loudness of a sound. For example, whispers give off 30 dB while exploding firecrackers give off somewhere between 140-165 dB. Any sound at or above 120 dB can make your ears hurt. The longer you must remain around such sounds, the greater the likelihood that they will permanently damage your hearing.
Common dangerous workplace sounds include the following:
- Jackhammer: 130 dB
- Fire engine or police car siren: 120-140 dB
- Electric drill: 125-130 dB
- Jet plane motor: 120 dB
- Hammer hammering nails: 115-120 dB
Your wisest strategy when you must work with or around noisy equipment consists of wearing earplugs or other hearing protection devices that your employer should provide you.