Could excessively noisy environments at work be damaging your hearing? Noise-induced hearing loss is the single most common reason for hearing damage. For those who are employed in one of the following high-noise professions, you have cause to worry about your hearing.The CDC reports that 30 million employees are subjected to hazardous noise at work and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss for other reasons such as solvents and metals.The best thing that you can do is to keep yourself well-informed about the potential risks of noise and have a candid conversation with your company.
All workers need to assess their own work surroundings for high-noise levels, particularly anyone in the following jobs.
- DJs/Bartenders/Bar Staff – Absolutely everyone that works in a night club – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the musicians. In a managed research study, sound levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average sound level for a normal session was 96 decibels which is above the sound level at which the provision of ear protection is mandatory for employers in industry. The study came to the conclusion that DJs are at substantial risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs frequently exceeds safe levels.
- Construction – Construction workers rank next to the highest for permanent hearing losses suffered in the workplace. Equipment used in construction regularly generates noise levels of 90 decibels or higher. A study of construction workers in WA State revealed that construction workers were surrounded by noise measuring 85 decibels or greater in about 70% of their workshifts, but wore their ear protectors less than 20 percent of the time.
- Musicians – Across practices, studio recording and live shows, musicians are continually surrounded by sound. The list of famous musicians with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus keeps growing each year. Widely recognized names on the current list include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, Phil Collins, George Martin, Brian Wilson, will.i.am, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, and Beethoven.
- Band & Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced across both rehearsals and performances found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the percussion and brass sections of the orchestra. 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 sound of a jet airplane engine is among the loudest auditory occupational hazards, with sound levels at a stunning 140 decibels.
- Firefighters and Paramedics – All of the sirens squealing accumulate over time. Numerous studies have explored the incidence of hearing disabilities in firefighters and emergency vehicle drivers with most concluding that firefighters suffer increased hearing damage compared to the general public of similar age.
- Military – Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the leading disability among United States military personnel. Up to 65 percent of combat troops returning from Afghanistan are afflicted by noise-induced hearing loss.
- Plumbers – The CDC website states that 48 percent of plumbers noted that they had a perceived hearing loss.
- Carpenters – The CDC web page on Work-Related Hearing Loss states that 44% of carpenters noted that they had a perceived hearing loss.
- Manufacturing – The largest number of permanent hearing losses suffered in the workplace come from manufacturing. Manufacturing positions routinely expose employees to equipment and machinery which generates upwards of 90 decibels of noise for extended period of time.
- Motorcycle Courier – A study of motorcycle noise – with and without helmets – under a variety of road conditions at speeds ranging from 45 mph to 65 revealed that the sound level measured ranged from 70 decibels to 128 decibels.