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Published on Sep 28, 2016
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year in the United States. The agency also reports that U.S. businesses paid more than $1.5 million in penalties last year for not protecting workers from noise and an estimated $242 million is spent annually on workers' compensation for hearing loss disability.
Exposure to loud noise kills the nerve endings in the inner ear. More exposure results in more dead nerve endings. The result is permanent hearing loss that cannot be corrected by surgery or medicine.
Short-term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing or a ringing in the ears called tinnitus. These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving a noisy area. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus, hearing loss or both.
Noise-induced hearing loss limits one’s ability to hear high frequency sounds and understand speech, which can seriously impair a person’s ability to communicate. Hearing aids may help, but they do not restore one’s hearing to normal.
Unfortunately, hearing loss is pervasive, but it is also preventable. OSHA reports that noise may be a problem in the workplace if:
• Workers hear ringing or humming in their ears when they leave work. • They have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm's length away. • They experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.
To protect workers’ hearing, OSHA has set legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. There are monitoring instruments and professionals who specialize in measuring noise levels and mitigating exposure risks in the work environment to help prevent hearing loss and to keep companies in compliance with regulations.
These are just a few things to know about hearing loss and occupational exposure to noise. To learn more about this or other health and safety, occupational, environmental or air quality issues, please visit the websites shown below.