Tinnitus & Hearing Loss affect American Workers
According to a study completed by the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health, 22 million American workers are impacted by dangerous noise levels. In this new study it is reported that 50 million people in the United States experience ringing in their ears, known as Tinnitus. This study was compared to the data from the 2007 National Health Interview Survey and it found that 5 percent of workers never exposed to dangerous noise levels experience Tinnitus. Of those who were exposed to dangerous noise levels as part of their work environment, 15 percent had Tinnitus. This is the first time the data has been compared and it appears that workers exposed to dangerous occupational noise levels are at higher risk of experiencing Tinnitus. While Tinnitus does not cause hearing loss, the condition does interfere with quality of life including work, personal relationships and even psychological distress according to NIOSH.
Noisy Industry & Tinnitus
Did you know that certain industries have been identified as noisy and are associated with higher risks of hearing loss? The NIOSH article stated agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries have a higher risk of hearing difficulty and Tinnitus (ringing in the ear). In a previous blog article we discussed some specific jobs that are known to cause hearing damage. Lumber and fishing industries were not mentioned in the top 5 loudest jobs. This fact should cause all workers exposed to noisy environments to ensure the protect themselves as discussed further in this article. Just because you don't work in Forestry or Fishing industries doesn't mean you're not at risk!
How to prevent Noise Induced Hearing Loss
While we can't pinpoint the cause of Tinnitus, we know that exposure to dangerous noise can cause hearing loss for environments where noise levels were above 85db over an 8 hour period of time. Extremely loud noises measuring over 100 db also contribute to hearing loss and Tinnitus. Loud press and fabrication machinery found in industry are one example. Chainsaw work in forestry is another. Impact noise from hammers, drills and percussion tools found in the construction trades also produce loud noises that exceed safe hearing environments. For those who work in noisy environments, we can protect our hearing by wearing hearing protection, providing regular breaks from noise exposure, monitoring & reducing noise levels and encouraging regular hearing tests. These methods are discussed here in our blog. Search on the keyword noise to see our articles.
We only have two ears to hear and it is vital to protect them in order to maintain healthy hearing. Talk with your safety team if you are exposed to dangerous levels or if you have concerns about your health. Wear appropriate hearing protection to reduce noise exposure and get regular hearing tests to monitor your hearing health.