The Most Common Ways Hearing Can Be Damaged at Work

How Hearing Loss Occurs at Work

Over 4 million people are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace every day. Industrial-related hearing loss due to hazardous noise is 100% preventable as well. However, noise is not the only culprit of hearing loss as we will discuss in this article.

Knowing how your hearing can be damaged in a work environment will help you be proactive and prevent permanent and debilitating hearing loss. A few simple steps to be aware and prevent noise exposure is all it takes.

Industrial Noise and Hearing Loss

Industrial noise is the number one reason for work-related hearing loss and tinnitus. Industrial noise is any noise that is produced by industrial processes. Including, but not limited to, machines, tools, fans, and other equipment.

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As discussed in our previous article about Hearing Conservation, in any setting where there is noise above 85 dBA a program and safety measures must be in place to protect the workers.

Ototoxic Chemicals Result in Hearing Loss

What are ototoxic chemicals? Ototoxic chemicals are chemicals that result in hearing loss. There are various products such as solvents, heavy metals, and asphyxiates that can result in hearing loss whether exposed independently or in addition to industrial noise.

Ototoxic chemicals can cause hearing damage by an employee inhaling ototoxic vapors or by simply making skin contact with the substances. Part of a good hearing conservation and safety program should include making sure employees are using proper hand and respiratory protection whenever potentially toxic chemicals are present.

The CDC has given some examples of ototoxic chemicals and more resources. The CDC has also provided an info sheet on ototoxic chemicals.

Loud Music Can Cause Hearing Loss

Many industries and companies allow their workers to use earbuds and listen to music while they work. This has been shown to have many benefits such as improved morale, productivity, and focus.  However, loud music can pose a risk to hearing as well.

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A general rule of thumb when listening to music through earbuds is to keep the volume below 60% of the max. When pairing personal music devices with industrial noise an employee is at even greater risk for hearing loss due to the need to turn the music up to hear it over the noise. Also, when using earbuds, employees will typically try to forgo any additional ear protection.

Non Work-Related Risk Factors for Hearing Loss

There are many other factors that can cause or contribute to hearing loss. These include smoking, aging, certain medications, and improper use of hearing protection.

While you can’t change your age or necessarily the medications that are prescribed for other health issues, you can take necessary precautions to prevent hearing loss.

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The correct use of hearing protection is the number 1 way to prevent hearing loss in the workplace. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for hearing protection so making sure you have the correct level and fit of hearing protection will be paramount in protecting your ears!

Final Thoughts on Ways Hearing can be Damaged at Work

As we pointed out there are many potential causes of hearing loss. But the most common culprits in the workplace are hazardous noise, ototoxins, and listening to music.

Industrial hearing loss is 100% preventable when proper measures are taken and followed by all employees. WorkSafe Physical Therapy can assist with your hearing conservation program.

Contact WorkSafe Physical Therapy to find out how we can help your company


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