According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 22 million workers are exposed to unsafe levels of noise at work each year. Noise-induced hearing loss is particularly prominent among firefighters, ambulance drivers, manufacturers, police officers and construction workers, among other professions. Regular exposure to loud noises that results in hearing loss can not only reduce quality of life, but also negatively impact a person's salary, emotional well-being and ability to balance. With that said, it's imperative for employers and managers to make hearing protection a top priority in a work setting. Here are four tips for helping protect your personal hearing safety and that of your workers:
1. Ensure your staff wears both earplugs and ear muffs
People often make the mistake of thinking that when it comes to hearing protection, earplugs or ear muffs can be used interchangeably. However, when noises reach particularly high decibel levels, workers should wear both of these forms of hearing protection together in order to drown out enough noise to avoid a dangerous amount of exposure. Make sure that each of your workers has a quality pair of ear muffs and have extra earplugs on hand so that they can be easily replaced as needed.
2. Provide regular breaks from exposure
A list of hearing protection tips from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine notes that it's important to regularly step away from noisy situations and spend time in a quieter environment. If there's no possible way to reduce the volume of noise overall, make sure that your workers have adequate opportunities to allow their ears to rest.
3. Monitor work noise levels
The CDC advises that companies should develop a hearing loss prevention program in which noise levels are monitored, evaluated and, if possible, minimized. Learning about what amount of noise can cause permanent hearing damage and then comparing it against the average noise level in your work environment may be a big step in finding solutions to protect your workers.
4. Encourage regular hearing tests
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association points out that adults age 50 and older should receive a hearing screening at least once every three years. Identifying hearing loss early is extremely important, because your ears need to be utilized in order to maintain their functionality. Furthermore, diagnosing hearing loss early can help prevent the onset of cognitive decline and deter feelings of social isolation.