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Workplace hearing loss: How great a problem?

If you suspect that your ability to hear is deteriorating, your job could be causing that deterioration. Per California Healthline, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists hearing loss as the number one workplace injury.

As for Workers’ Compensation, hearing loss claims total nearly $242 million annually in the U.S.

At-risk jobs

You face a substantial risk of hearing loss if your job consists of one of the following:

  • Ambulance driver or EMT
  • Construction worker
  • Airline crew member
  • Manufacturer or factory worker
  • Lawn maintenance worker
  • Miner

Dangerous noise levels

Decibels represent the noise level measurement unit and increase as loudness increases. For instance, a whisper produces only 30 dB while a gunshot or firecracker produces 140-165 dB. Any noise of 120 dB or higher can cause you immediate ear pain and the possibility of permanent hearing loss.

Decibel level, however, is not the only factor in hearing loss. The length of time you remain exposed to high levels of noise also plays a major role. As you might expect, the louder the noise, the shorter amount of time you can hear it before you begin sustaining hearing damage.

Per the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, employees should not listen to decibel levels higher than 85 for sustained periods of time. For construction workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration increases this “acceptable” noise level to 90 dB.

Unfortunately, however, much of the equipment you use at work produces more noise. For example, consider the following:

  • Table saw: 93 dB
  • Chainsaw: 106-115 dB
  • Hammering nails 115-120 dB
  • Electric drill: 125-130 dB
  • Jackhammer: 130 dB

A jet plane produces 120 dB while a police or fire engine siren produces 120-140 dB.

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