Do you find yourself concerned about hearing impairments from noise levels on the job? Extreme noise levels are one of the most common causes of hearing damage. Worrying about your ability to hear is a natural reaction for anyone working in a high-noise profession. An estimated 30 million workers risk hazardous noise exposure on the job according to the CDC. The best thing that you can do is to educate yourself about the potential risks and have a candid discussion with your employer.
Below is a starter list of positions where hearing loss is a major problem.
DJs/Bartenders/Bar Staff – Absolutely everyone that works in a nightclub – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the DJs. In a controlled study, sound levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in popular nightclubs. The average sound level for a normal nightclub outing was 96 decibels which is over the sound level at which the provision of ear protection is required for employers in industry. The research determined that Disc Jockeys are at substantial risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs frequently exceeds safe levels.
Construction – Construction workers rank second highest for permanent hearing loss disabilities sustained on the job. Equipment used in building construction routinely generates noise levels of 90 decibels or higher. A Washington State study of construction workers discovered that in spite of being exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels during 70 percent of their workshifts, construction workers only wore ear protectors 20 percent of the time.
Musicians – Across rehearsals, recordings and concerts, musicians are continually surrounded by sound. The list of famous musicians with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus continues to grow each and every year. Well known artists on the current list include Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, Phil Collins, George Martin, Brian Wilson, will.i.am, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Beethoven.
Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians encountered during both performances and rehearsals 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 of the orchestra. A different Swedish study revealed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians (42%) had hearing losses greater than that expected for their ages.
Airport Staff – The sound of a jet engine is one of the loudest occupational hazards, with noise levels at a stunning 140 dB.
Paramedics and Firefighters – The many sirens whirring add up over time. Numerous research studies have explored the frequency of hearing impairments in firefighters and emergency vehicle drivers with most finding that firefighters suffer accelerated hearing damage compared to the general public of the same age.
Armed Forces – The top disability among US military personnel is noise-induced hearing loss. Up to 65% of troops returning from combat in Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control webpage for Work-Related Hearing Loss states that 48% of plumbers reported that they had a perceived hearing loss.
Manufacturing – Manufacturing workers account for the largest numbers of permanent hearing disabilities suffered on the job. Manufacturing industries routinely expose workers to equipment and machinery which produces upwards of 90 decibels of noise over extended periods.
Agriculture – Farmers are routinely exposed to extreme noise and the use of ear protection among agricultural and farm workers is not common. Research studies of male farmers found that by age 30, 25 percent already had a hearing loss. By age 50, the rate of hearing impairment climbed to half.