Could excessively noisy environments at work be damaging your hearing? Noise-induced hearing loss is the most common reason for hearing loss. Certain occupations are simply more noisy than others, and workers in those fields should be appropriately concerned about their hearing. Approximately 30 million workers risk hazardous noise exposure on the job according to the CDC.Workers in high-noise job areas must equip themselves with the specifics of work-related hearing safety and keep an open conversation with their employers.
What follows is a starter list of careers where hearing impairment is a major problem.
- Manufacturing – Manufacturing workers constitute the largest numbers of permanent hearing disabilities sustained on the job. Manufacturing industries routinely expose workers to machinery and equipment which produces over 90 decibels of noise.
- Construction Workers – The second greatest number of permanent hearing loss disabilities sustained on the job is among construction workers. Construction equipment routinely exposes workers to heavy machinery that generates upwards of 90 decibels. A WA State study of construction workers found that in spite of being exposed to noises exceeding 85 decibels during 70 percent of their shifts, construction workers only wore hearing protectors 20 percent of the time (or less).
- Carpenters – The CDC web page on Work-Related Hearing Loss reports that 44% of carpenters noted that they had a perceived hearing loss.
- Nightclub Staff and DJs – Absolutely everyone that works at a nightclub – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the musicians. In a managed research study, sound levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average level for a normal nightclub outing was 96 decibels which is above the noise level at which employers are required to provide hearing protection. The research determined that Disc Jockeys are at substantial risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs routinely surpasses safe levels.
- Musicians – Across rehearsals, studio recording and concerts, musicians are continually engulfed in sound. The list of renowned musicians with permanent hearing problems or tinnitus keeps growing each year. Well known artists on the current list include Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, Phil Collins, George Martin, Brian Wilson, will.i.am, and Ludwig van Beethoven.
- Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced during both rehearsals and performances found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the percussion and brass sections of the orchestra. Another Swedish study showed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians had hearing losses greater than that expected for their ages.
- Airport Staff – The sound of a jet engine is among the loudest auditory occupational hazards, with noise levels at a shocking 140 decibels.
- Firefighters / Ambulance Drivers – All of the sirens whirring add up over time. Several research studies have investigated the prevalence of hearing problems in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most finding that firefighters experienced increased hearing damage relative to the general population of the same age.
- Military – The top disability among US military personnel is noise-induced hearing loss. Up to 65 percent of combat troops returning from Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
- Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control website states that 48 percent of plumbers reported that they had a perceived hearing loss.
- Farming – Hearing protection among farm and agricultural workers isn’t common despite fairly consistent contact with excessive noise. Studies have shown that one-quarter of male farmers incur hearing impairments by the age of 30 and one-half by age 50.