Occupation Hearing conservation programs are an important aspect of employee health and safety. According to the CDC, about 25% of all workers, about 4 million workers a day (NIOSH), have been exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace.
A hearing conservation program strives to prevent initial work-related hearing loss as well as to preserve and protect any remaining hearing. Hearing conservation programs are also required to equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves against future or further hearing loss.
According to OSHA, companies that implement appropriate hearing conservation programs have increased worker productivity and decreased absenteeism. At WorkSafe Physical Therapy in Wichita, KS, we are able to assist you with your hearing conservation efforts.
What is Occupational Noise Exposure?
Noise, or UNWANTED sound, is a growing problem in occupational health. It is a by-product of many processes in general industry.
The CDC estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging occupational noise each year. You can be in the business of sports arenas, manufacturing, or construction and still have a noise problem that is preventable!
The CDC reports that about 16% of noise-exposed tested workers have a hearing impairment, which is hearing loss that impacts day-to-day activities
When is a Hearing Conservation Program Required?
According to OSHA, a company must implement and maintain a hearing conservation program“whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent.”
Employers, therefore, are required to monitor all employees who are exposed to noise greater than 85 dBA over an 8-hour day.
In other words, if you need to raise your voice to speak to someone 3 feet away (arm’s length), the environment you are in may have a noise level above 85 dBA.
Why is it Important to have a Hearing Conservation Program?
In the United States, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition among adults after hypertension and arthritis (via CDC). In addition to this, approximately 24% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is caused by occupational exposures, which is 100% preventable!
Sometimes the hearing loss or tinnitus(ringing of the ears) will be short-term and go away after a period of time. However, repeated exposure to loud noises can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss. There are 50 million people with tinnitus which is an early indication of hearing loss.
Exposure to noise over a period of time can result in permanent hearing loss. What this means is that neither surgery nor a hearing aid will be able to correct the damage done.
Hearing loss can result in more secondary injuries at the workplace due to the inability of the employee to hear warning signals and be aware of their surroundings. Working in an environment with loud noise can also create a significant amount of physical and psychological stress on the employee and reduce productivity and concentration.
The effects of noise-induced hearing loss can be profound for an individual. It will limit their ability to understand speech and hear high-frequency sounds. High-frequency sounds include women’s and children’s voices, consonants during speech, as well as some ranges of musical instruments. Hearing loss can affect the quality of life significantly of an individual. Its effect on relationships include blame, defensiveness, decreased social interaction, frustration, anger, decreased intimacy, and a loss of spontaneity and humor.
How YOU Can Prevent Employee Hearing Loss with a Conservation Program
Occupational noise exposure is a major cause of preventable hearing loss in the United States. 16% of workers that have been exposed to workplace hazardous noise have a hearing impairment. With an appropriate hearing conservation program in place, hearing loss can be prevented in your company.
WorkSafe Physical Therapy has a Certified Occupational Hearing Conservationist that can assist you in all of your hearing program needs! We can provide hearing tests, education with employees, fit instructions, and spot-checking for current noise levels. If there is more you need then just give us a call and we can help!!
Contact WorkSafe Physical Therapy to find out how we can help your company
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