Hearing Loss in the Workplace

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There are many occupations that can negatively affect our hearing. Unfortunately, occupational hearing loss can occur as a result of louder noises as well as certain chemicals that can damage different parts of the ear. Here, we want to review some ways hearing loss occurs in the workplace as well as discuss what victims can do after this type of injury occurs.

Sources and Causes of Occupational Hearing Loss

Occupational hearing loss is a relatively common work-related illnesses in the United States, but it is not something often discussed. Hearing loss in the workplace can result from various sources, including but not limited to:

  • Loud noise exposure. Constant exposure to noise levels above 85 decibels (dB) can cause significant damage to the inner ear. Common sources include machinery, heavy equipment, and power tools found in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and mining.
  • Ototoxic chemical exposure. Certain chemicals used in workplaces, such as solvents, pesticides, and metals (like lead and mercury), can be ototoxic – meaning they can damage hearing. Workers in the painting, farming, and chemical manufacturing sectors are particularly at risk.
  • Poor acoustic environments. Workplaces with poor acoustic design can exacerbate noise levels. For example, hard surfaces can cause sound to bounce and increase noise intensity.

Effects of Hearing Loss

The effects of workplace-induced hearing loss extend beyond just reduced hearing capability:

  • Communication difficulties. Impaired hearing affects the ability to understand verbal instructions and warnings, which can compromise safety.
  • Tinnitus. Continuous exposure to noise can lead to tinnitus, a ringing, dull buzzing, or hissing in the ears, further affecting an individual’s well-being.
  • Psychological impact. Chronic hearing loss can lead to social isolation, anxiety, and depression due to difficulties in communication.

Unfortunately, the effects of hearing loss can infiltrate every aspect of a person’s life. We typically do not realize how much we rely on our hearing until our hearing is diminished.

Prevention and Protection Strategies

Employers and employees can take several measures to prevent and mitigate hearing loss in the workplace:

  • Hearing conservation programs. Implementing comprehensive hearing conservation programs is critical, particularly for workplaces known to have a negative effect on workers’ hearing. These programs involve regular hearing tests, noise exposure monitoring, and worker training on the importance of hearing protection.
  • Use of protective equipment. Providing and enforcing the use of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as earmuffs and earplugs, can significantly reduce noise exposure.
  • Engineering controls. Modifying machinery and equipment to operate more quietly and designing workplaces to minimize noise production and propagation can effectively decrease noise levels.
  • Administrative controls. Implementing shifts or rotations to limit the duration of exposure to noise, maintaining equipment to reduce noise output, and providing quiet areas where workers can take breaks from noise exposure are also vital strategies.

Do You Need an Attorney for Help?

Recovering compensation after work related hearing loss can be very challenging, particularly because this type of injury or illness could have another cause outside of the workplace. We strongly encourage individuals to contact a skilled Long Beach workplace injury lawyer with experience handling these particular types of claims. It will be important for an attorney to show that the hearing loss occurred due to on the job activities or exposure.