Could noisy conditions on the job be damaging your hearing? Extreme noise levels are among the most frequent causes of hearing damage. Thinking about your hearing is a normal response for anyone employed in a high-noise profession.The CDC estimates that 30 million employees are subjected to hazardous noise on the job and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss from other agents such as solvents and metals.Occupational hearing safety is best tackled with facts and an open discussion between employers and employees. Staff should learn as much as they can about the risks.
The likelihood of hearing impairment should be mitigated to the greatest extent possible in any profession. The following is a partial list of especially noisy jobs.
- Manufacturing – The majority of permanent hearing losses suffered on the job are in manufacturing. Manufacturing positions routinely expose workers to equipment and machinery which produces upwards of 90 decibels of noise over extended periods.
- Construction – The second highest number of permanent hearing losses sustained on the job is among construction workers. Equipment used in building construction frequently operates at 90 decibels. A Washington State examination of construction workers found that in spite of being exposed to noises exceeding 85 decibels during 70% of their workshifts, construction workers only wore hearing protectors 20 percent of the time.
- Carpenters – The CDC web page on Work-Related Hearing Loss reports that 44% of carpenters reported that they had a perceived hearing loss.
- Miners – According to the CDC, 49 percent of male miners are predicted to have a hearing disability before age 50 – in contrast to 9 percent of the general public – increasing to 70 percent by 60 years of age.
- Bartenders and DJs – Absolutely everyone that works in a night club – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the performers. In a controlled research study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average level for a standard session was 96 decibels which is above the level at which the provision of ear protection is mandatory for employers in industry. The study concluded that DJs are at substantial risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and sound exposure in nightclubs routinely surpasses safe levels.
- Musicians – Across rehearsals, recordings and concerts, musicians are continually surrounded by sound. The list of renowned musicians with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus keeps growing each year. Well-known artists on the current list include Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, Phil Collins, George Martin, Brian Wilson, will.i.am, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend and Ludwig van Beethoven.
- Band & Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians encountered during both rehearsals and performances found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Top volumes were 130 decibels in the brass and percussion sections. A different Swedish research project showed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians had hearing losses greater than that predicted for their ages.
- Airport Staff – The noise of a jet airplane engine is among the loudest auditory occupational hazards, with sound levels at a shocking 140 dB.
- Firefighters / Ambulance Drivers – The many sirens squealing accumulate over time. Numerous studies have explored the prevalence of hearing disabilities in firefighters and emergency vehicle drivers with most finding that firefighters suffer increased hearing loss relative to the general population of similar age.
- Military – Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the top disability among United States military personnel. Up to 65% of combat troops returning from Afghanistan are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss.
- Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control webpage for Work-Related Hearing Loss states that 48% of plumbers noted that they had a perceived hearing loss.