Hear and Now: Ending Workplace Hearing Loss

OSHA recently initiated a program to help end work-related hearing loss.

If you work in the construction or manufacturing industries, listen up: Hearing loss is now the most common workplace injury in the United States—and those who work in those fields are often the most at-risk of suffering auditory damage.

The good news? The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Department of Labor are finally stepping up and taking notice.

The Workplace Hearing Loss Epidemic

Sometimes, people hear a high-pitched humming noise because of exposure to loud noises at work. Other times, people can't hear much other than muffled conversation following a shift operating loud machinery. Too often, workers subjected to sustained levels of moderate to loud noise suffer permanent hearing damage.

The statistics may shock even those who work in fields where loud noises are a regular part of the work atmosphere. Consider these numbers:

  • 22 million – The number of workers exposed to damaging levels of noise at work each year.
  • 4 million – The number of workers who are exposed to damaging levels of noise each day in the United States.
  • $1.5 million – The amount U.S. businesses were forced to pay in penalties for not adequately protecting their workers from damaging levels of noise at work.
  • $242 million – The amount of money spent each year on workers' compensation claims related to hearing loss.

Taking a Stand Against On-the-Job Hearing Loss

Acknowledging that hearing loss is the most prevalent workplace injury, OSHA recently launched an initiative to find a way to curb auditory damage caused on the job. Called "Hear and Now," the program solicited ideas for "new technology that overcomes barriers in work-induced hearing-loss prevention.

Those who submitted the top most-promising ideas will get a chance to pitch their ideas to investors at the Noise Safety Challenge event slated for Oct. 27.

We want to give credit where it is due: Strides by OSHA and other government agencies to reduce the number of workers who endure tinnitus, short-term and even permanent hearing loss are steps in the right direction.

Preventing Hearing Loss at Work Will Take More Work

That said, the workers' compensation attorneys at Edgar Snyder & Associates know all too well how an on-the-job injury can have lasting—sometimes even lifelong—consequences. We've represented thousands of injured workers and we can tell you this: All too often, workers suffer on-the-job injuries that are absolutely no fault of their own.

Safety advocates tend to agree with us—at least when it comes to auditory damage caused by workers being subjected to loud noises on the job.

The sad truth is that advanced technologies to help prevent hearing loss in the workplace already exist. However, because of cost and other considerations, many companies do not seek out that technology.

Worse, many workers in construction and manufacturing often work without protective equipment like earplugs. This is because their employers never trained them on the risks associated with being subjected to long periods of loud noise.

At least one study shows this is especially true of employees who work in environments where they are subjected to low, as well as moderately loud noises. They mistakenly believe those lower sound levels aren't as disastrous for their long-term hearing health.

There are many common-sense steps companies can take now to ensure the auditory safety of their workers. They can:

  • Purchase and use quieter machines
  • Isolate sources of noise
  • Minimize workers' exposure to loud noises
  • Create and use more effective protective equipment
  • Train workers on the dangers of sustained levels of loud noise—as well as the importance of wearing protective gear

Do you work in construction, manufacturing or another field where you are subjected to loud noises during the course of your work day? If so, don't delay seeking treatment if you suspect you are suffering from work-related hearing loss.

You should contact a doctor if you:

  • Find it increasingly more difficult to understand a conversation—especially when there is background noise or if you are in a crowded room.
  • Sounds seem muffled and you can't make out consonant sounds.
  • Find yourself cranking up the volume of your television, cell phone or radio to properly hear what's being broadcast.

If you or someone you love is the victim of a workplace injury, don't make a call to the doctor the only one you make. Call Edgar Snyder & Associates today—our skilled workers' compensation attorney will answer all your questions and handle all the heavy legal lifting. That way, you can concentrate on what should be the most important task at hand: Getting well again.

Mayo Clinic
"Ideas Sought to Fight Top U.S. Work Injury: Hearing Loss," CNN.com, Sept. 13, 2016