We often think of hearing loss as a problem confined to older adults, but the truth is, even young people in Tucson can develop hearing loss as a result of noise exposure. If you work in a noisy occupational setting, you should take extra precautions when it comes to protecting your hearing.
What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?
Statistics indicate that around 15 percent of people in Tucson aged 20-69 experience noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). It is the result of damage to the sensory cells in the inner ear that occurs following exposure to unsafe noise levels. 85 decibels (dB) is considered the threshold for safe noise exposure; subjected to volume levels exceeding 85 dB for a prolonged period of time may cause permanent hearing loss. The louder the noise, the less safe time you have; it takes about eight hours to cause hearing damage at 85 dB, but at 100 dB, irreversible damage can occur after only 15 minutes. The best way to prevent damage is to wear hearing protection whenever you are going to be exposed to unsafe noise levels.
Many activities can cause NIHL including noisy rock concerts, sporting events, riding motorcycles and operating heavy machinery. One of the biggest hazards for many people is found in a place they frequent 40 hours a week or more: the workplace.
NIHL in the Workplace
NIHL is one of the most commonly reported occupational diseases in Arizona and across the U.S. It is especially prevalent in manufacturing and construction jobs. Teachers, musicians, factory and farm workers, gardeners and airport ground staff are just a few of the occupations where workers are susceptible to hazardous noise levels. If you’re a Formula One race car driver, the odds are really stacked against you!
Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has established limits on permissible noise levels in the workplace. Their permissible exposure level is 90 dB for all workers in an eight-hour day. Workers have a slew of rights under OSHA guidelines, including:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Information and training about workplace hazards, methods of preventing them and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review of records for all work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a confidential complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard, or their employer is not following OSHA’s rules.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA.
In order to reduce your risk of developing hearing loss in the workplace, make sure you wear proper hearing protection at all times. Your employer is required by law to provide this to you. They should also provide training sessions on hearing safety measures and/or establishing an onsite hearing conservation program.
If you are working in a noisy environment and would like more tips on protecting your hearing, talk to your Tucson audiologist today.