Hearing protection in the workplace

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that ten million people in the United States have noise induced hearing loss and nearly all of those cases are a result of exposure to noise on the job.

Unlike muscles, you cannot “toughen up” your ears so that you’re not bothered by loud noises. If you’re not as sensitive to loud noises as you once were, you’ve already lost some of your hearing and hearing will not regenerate. Once you’ve lost your hearing, it’s gone for good.

How do you know if you’re experiencing hearing loss? If you frequently experience any of the following, have your hearing checked:

  • Muffled sounds and/or problems hearing faint noises.
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise.
  • Asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly.
  • The need to turn up the volume of a television or radio.
  • A feeling of fullness in the ears.

Exposure to noise levels at 85 decibels (db) or higher for eight hours or more per day puts your hearing at risk.

But the good news is … hearing loss is preventable. Every employee in the shop should have some form of hearing protection. This could be anything from simple foam earplugs to custom-made headsets. But the best hearing protection device is the one you wear and wear correctly.

Good hearing protectors feature an adjustable band for proper fit. Noise reduction rating of 22db over the head, 20 db behind the head and under the chin.

Some steps you can take to protect your hearing include:

  • Wear protective devices
  • Limit your exposure
  • Be aware of noises around you
  • Give your ears a rest
  • Use caution when listening to headphones
  • Have your hearing tested regularly if you are at risk for hearing loss.
  • Check with your employer about hearing protection and noise reduction methods.

For more information on hearing loss prevention, visit these Internet sites:

www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/abouthlp/chooseprotection.html
www.mayoclinic.com

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