If you have found that your hearing has deteriorated over time and you suspect your work environment may have something to do with the decline, you are not alone. According to USA Today, hearing loss is the single-most common work-related injury affecting American employees today, with about 22 million workers facing dangerous levels of noise when they show up to work. It is also a costly problem for employers, with about $242 million spent on workers’ compensation costs relating to hearing loss every year.
Furthermore, while you might assume that the level of danger you face increases alongside just how loud your work environment is, this is not, in fact, the case.
Risk factors for workplace hearing loss
Statistics show that employees who work in environments where noise levels are moderate, as opposed to severe, are actually more likely to suffer from work-related hearing loss than those who work in especially loud environments. Why? When there is no question about the dangerous level of noise, employers are more likely to enact strong policies about wearing headphones and other protective gear. Additionally, employees who are aware of how severe the noise level is at their place of business are more likely to comply with safety regulations than those who might perceive their workplace noise levels as being not particularly bad.
Furthermore, your odds of suffering workplace hearing loss increase if you work in certain industries prone to loud noise, among them the mining, construction and manufacturing industries. You may, however, also face work-related hearing loss if you work in environments such as concert, event or sporting venues.
While there is little dispute over just how serious a problem workplace hearing loss is in America, there is some dispute over how to address the issue moving forward. Some believe that the current regulations the Occupational Health and Safety Administration has in place regarding workplace noise are not strict enough, outdated, and do not consider modern noise levels or the presence of outside noise.
If you work in an environment where noise levels are potentially hazardous, make sure to don proper protective gear and notify your employer about your concerns.