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How Noise Exposure Can Cause Occupational Hearing Loss

Workers wearing hearing protection in factory at an industrial metal cutting machine.

Occupational hearing loss is a widespread yet often overlooked issue that carries significant consequences. It emerges as a result of extended exposure to excessive noise levels and hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Much like other workplace injuries, hearing loss remains an ongoing challenge for workers and often results in workers' compensation claims being filed.

How many workers are affected by hazardous noise levels?

The risk of job-related hearing loss affects a staggering number of workers each year. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that workers' exposure to noise doesn't exceed 85 decibels (A-weighted) averaged over an eight-hour workday.

About 22 million workers are subjected to noise levels that far surpass this recommended limit. An additional 30 million workers are exposed to ototoxic chemicals capable of causing harm to their hearing. These chemicals disrupt the cochlea, a vital spiral-shaped structure within the inner ear that houses thousands of hair cells responsible for processing various sound frequencies.

Exposure to hazardous noise levels and chemicals results in:

  • Communication difficulties: Hearing loss directly impacts one's ability to communicate effectively, straining personal and professional relationships.
  • Health issues: Hearing loss is linked to tinnitus (ringing in the ears), mental health challenges, heart problems, cognitive decline, and other health-related issues.
  • Safety concerns: Workers experiencing hearing loss face safety concerns for themselves and their colleagues. This can result in workplace accidents and injuries when the affected employee can't hear certain hazards.

Preventative measures for occupational hearing loss

Fortunately, occupational hearing loss is largely preventable. Employers must prioritize their employees' hearing health by instituting comprehensive hearing conservation programs. For example, employers can implement:

  • Noise control measures: Implementing strategies to minimize workplace noise levels can significantly reduce exposure.
  • Regular hearing testing: Providing employees with regular hearing assessments allows for early detection and intervention.
  • Personal protective equipment: Offering earplugs or earmuffs as protective gear helps safeguard employees from excessive noise.
  • Employee education: Providing comprehensive training on workplace noise risks and the importance of hearing protection equips workers with the knowledge needed to safeguard their hearing.

Additionally, workers should assume responsibility for their hearing health by actively using provided protection and promptly reporting any concerns to their employers.

Treatment for work-related hearing loss

Treatment for occupational hearing loss depends on the severity of the condition. It typically includes a combination of medical interventions, assistive devices, and lifestyle adjustments. Here are some common treatments:

  • Hearing aids for mild to moderate hearing loss.
  • Cochlear implants to bypass damaged parts of the inner ear.
  • Assistive listening devices to improve hearing in specific situations.
  • Communication training such as speechreading (lip-reading).
  • Hearing protection such as earplugs or earmuffs to prevent further hearing loss.
  • Tinnitus management to prevent ringing in the ears.
  • Lifestyle adjustments such as minimizing exposure to loud noises and maintaining overall health.

Contact a Pennsylvania workers' comp attorney if you're suffering from occupational hearing loss

Are you suffering from work-related hearing loss? An experienced workers' compensation attorney can help you with the process of filing a claim. At Vellner Law, we aim to help our clients obtain the financial benefits they deserve, including compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, rehabilitation, and short- and long-term disability.

While filing a workers' compensation claim in Pennsylvania can be a complex process, we can handle every aspect of your claim. To get started, contact us online or call us to schedule your free consultation. We have law offices in Bethlehem and Allentown.

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