Reducing the Effects of Noise in the Workplace
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH, 2017), over 22 millions workers in the US are exposed to hazardous noise on the job, and an additional nine million are at risk for hearing loss from other agents, such as solvents. An estimated $242 millions is spent annually on workers' compensation for hearing loss disability. Extended noise exposure can cause temporary ringing in the ears or other temporary changes in hearing. The ears may also feel stuffed up. Short-term pronblems usually subside within a few minutes or hours after the noise ceases. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent, incurable hearing loss.
Industry-specific studies reveal that 49% of workers in the mining industry are likely to experience hearing impairment by age 50, compared to around 9% of the general population. This rises to 70% for mining workers at age 60. Approximately 48% of plumbers and 44% of carpenters report a perceived hearing loss. The studies also reveal that noise-induced hearing loss is the seoncd most self-reported occupational illness.
An Ounce of Prevention
Although hearing loss is permanent, it can be prevented. Business owners can take steps to minimize hazardous noise on the job, such as installing a muffler or an acoustic barrier. In addition, employers can provide workers with protective devices, such as earmuffs or earplugs, and can teach proper usage.
The gradual effect on hearing may go unnoticed, especiall if at-risk emplyees are not aware of the potential consquences. To determine the extent of noise pollution, a business can employ a noise evaluation service to measure sound levels in the workplace. In this way, employers may become aware of which employees are most at risk for hearing loss. With regular hearing tests, signs of hearing loss can be detected early and addressed before severe damage results. Preventative measures can reduce workers' compensation claims, eliminate increases in business insurance costs, and prevent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations and fines. For more information on hearing loss prevention programs in the workplace, visit www.cdc.gov