Every year, 22 million workers in America are exposed to potentially harmful levels of noise. The impact of workplace noise has become so serious that “noise induced hearing loss” (NIHL) now ranks as one of the top occupational illnesses (OSHA, 2018). It is imperative that companies and employees are aware of the impact of noise and plan for hearing safety. May is Better Hearing month nationally – making it the perfect time to highlight this issue.
The role of hearing in the workplace
From a biological standpoint, one of the roles of hearing is to warn us of danger, and this adaptation in the workplace is crucial. An active job site puts even more pressure on the ability to hear: constant noise makes it harder to communicate, affects concentration and is fatiguing. Add hearing loss to the equation and the consequences become more serious.
In the United States, 11% of workers have untreated hearing loss, with the highest occurrences reported in the construction, manufacturing and agricultural sectors (NIOSH, 2017). The safety concern related to hearing loss is not only for the workers, but also their colleagues.
Workers need to be able to hear:
- Instructions and safety briefings
- Danger signals and alarms
- Vehicle or equipment back-up signals
- Verbal warnings
- Changes in operating sounds from machinery
Being unable to hear in any of these situations can be the catalyst for a potentially serious accident.
5 tips for hearing loss prevention in the workplace
“Only noise-induced hearing loss can be prevented,” says Jill Botkin, chief audiologist at HearUSA. “Employers should conduct noise assessments, provide hearing loss education and ensure their workers use protective equipment.”
If a worker has to raise their voice to shout over a noise at a distance of an arm’s length, it is likely that the noise is at a volume range that can cause damage to hearing.
Employers and workers should:
- Know which noises and levels are damaging
- Provide and wear Noise Reduction Rated (NRR) hearing protection devices such as earplugs
- Host and/or participate in an annual hearing testing program
- Be aware of the symptoms of hearing loss (ringing ears, muffled speech)
- Monitor sound levels
Being aware of noise levels now can pay dividends in the future.
If workers have been exposed to noise
Further prevention and treatment are both important. A hearing screening with a HearUSA hearing care professional is the first step. With 30 years of experience with hearing protection and NIHL solutions, HearUSA can outline a treatment program and make recommendations to safeguard against further hearing damage.
During May is Better Hearing Month, give us a call to ensure your employees’ hearing is safe. It is estimated that $242 million is spent annually compensating workers for hearing loss related disability (OSHA, 2018), so prevention is both positive for employees’ health and the company’s bottom line.
Call Brittany Zedlitz, Account Manager at HearUSA, to learn more about the HearUSA hearing care program: 561-801-9490 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance (2017, July 5). National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/ohl/
- Occupational Noise Exposure United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/