Workplace noise is an ongoing concern that can have serious consequences for employees’ hearing health. From manufacturing plants to construction sites, various industries expose workers to high levels of noise on a daily basis.
Workplace noise is more than just the clatter of keyboards or the hum of computers. It can include a wide range of sounds, from the constant drone of machinery in a factory to the blaring alarms at a construction site. The key factor is the decibel level of the noise because prolonged exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can lead to hearing damage.
Temporary hearing loss
Temporary hearing loss can immediately follow exposure to loud noise. This can occur after a particularly noisy day on the job and may cause muffled hearing or a ringing sensation in the ears. In most cases, this type of hearing loss is temporary and can improve over time with limited exposure to loud noise.
Permanent hearing loss
Workers who face consistent exposure to high noise levels without protection may be at risk of permanent hearing loss. This condition, known as noise-induced hearing loss, is the result of damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. Once these hair cells suffer damage, they cannot regenerate, leading to irreversible hearing loss.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 16% of employees exposed to work-related noise have some type of material hearing impairment. Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe and healthy work environment, and this figure suggests they must do more to protect their workers’ ears and preserve their hearing abilities.