Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Can Be Avoided

October 28, 2016 0 Comments Safety 1168 Views

Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common work-related condition in the United States. Each year, an estimated 22 million U.S. workers encounter noise exposures loud enough to be potentially hazardous. In addition to damaging workers’ quality of life, occupational hearing loss can carry a high economic price to society. Occupational hearing loss occurs as a result of workers’ exposure to loud noise. In fact, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers should not be exposed to noise at a level that amounts to more than 85 decibels (dBA) for 8 hours. The level of risk is influenced by several factors:

  • Noise level – as noise level increases, the risk also increases
  • Duration of exposure – the longer the noise lasts, the more hazardous it becomes
  • Impulsiveness – noises that have very abrupt starts and stops (such as hammering, gunfire, or fireworks) are more dangerous than constant noise of the same overall level
  • Intermittency – periods of relative quiet between exposures allow the ear to “rest” and reduce the risk

Ototoxic chemicals can also affect hearing. Workplace chemicals that pose a threat to hearing include:

  • Organic solvents – toluene, styrene, xylene, ethylbenzene, trichloroethylene
  • Heavy metals – mercury, lead, trimethyltin
  • Asphyxiants – carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide
  • Endocrine disrupters – Aroclor 1254, Acrylonitrile

All workers are not equally vulnerable to occupational hearing loss. Certain biological factors such as gender, age, race/ethnicity, genetics, and health issues can influence a worker’s susceptibility to the effects of noise. The ear does not experience pain in the same way the rest of the body does. Ringing or roaring in the ears indicate a serious noise exposure, which if continued could lead to permanent damage and hearing loss.

Develop a Hearing Loss Prevention Program

In order to minimize occupational risks and reduce work-related hearing loss, companies and organizations should consider implementing a Hearing Loss Prevention Program. Critical components to any Hearing Loss Prevention Program include:

  • Noise exposure monitoring
  • Engineering and administrative controls
  • Audiometric evaluation
  • Hearing protection devices

Hearing protection: A practical step

Although removal or control of hazardous noise from the workplace is the best solution, hearing protectors should be used in situations where dangerous noise exposures have not yet been eliminated. NIOSH has developed tools that provide valuable information about hearing protection devices.

 

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