Occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year. Whether you work at a sports venue, on a tarmac, or operate a jackhammer—hearing loss is preventable.
Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in our inner ear. More exposure will result in more dead nerve endings.
The risk of hearing loss is increased when workers are exposed to these chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. This combination often results in hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the level of noise, the dose of the chemical, and the duration of the exposure.
This hearing impairment affects many occupations and industries, from machinists to firefighters.
The result is permanent hearing loss that cannot be corrected through surgery or with medicine. Noise-induced hearing loss limits your ability to hear high-frequency sounds and understand speech, which seriously impairs your ability to communicate.
NIOSH establishes Recommended Exposure Limits (REL) for noise based on the best available science and practice. The NIOSH REL for noise is 85 decibels, using the A-weighting frequency response (often written as dBA) over an 8-hour average, usually referred to as Time-Weighted Average (TWA).
Exposures at or above this level are considered hazardous.
Hearing aids may help, but they do not restore your hearing to normal.
OSHA requires employers to implement a hearing conservation program when noise exposure is at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).
Hearing conservation programs strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves.