For many years, rockers and music enthusiasts would say, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old!” But in reality, if it’s too loud, you’re risking a valuable asset – your hearing.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that approximately 30 million people in the U.S. are exposed to hazardous noise at work, 125,000 workers suffer significant hearing loss, and 21,000 report cases of permanent hearing loss. Working around high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. While it may not seem like an immediate threat, it can cause physical and psychological stress, reduce your productivity, and can make it more difficult to hear warning signals, which would make you more prone to other accidents.
Hearing damage can take time before you realize the effects, and by then, the damage could be irreversible. Neither surgery or a hearing aid can help correct conditions like tinnitus caused by hearing loss. Hear us out on these ways you can keep your workplace safe from seriously damaging noise.
Co-Worker, Can You Hear me?
How can you tell if you’re at risk of damaging your hearing at work? There are several warning signs to look out for when deciding whether or not your workplace is in danger of being too noisy. Notice how you feel after working a shift. Do you hear ringing or humming in your ears, or even temporary loss of hearing for a small period of time after work? You may get this type of feeling after attending a concert or major sporting event. If you experience it regularly at work, you may be in danger of damaging your hearing.
Also, take notice of how you communicate with your co-workers or managers. Do you have to shout to be heard by a colleague or boss who is only an arm’s length away? If you have to yell at people who are within a short distance of you, you may be at risk of working in an environment that is too loud.
Protection to Hear the Sound of Silence
While it’s always important to have effective hearing protection like earplugs or muffs, they shouldn’t be your only line of defense against hearing damage. There are several different grades of ear protection and you have to get the right kind of protection that best fits with your job and industry. Before you work in a noisy environment, check with your employer that you have the proper protective equipment.
What Can I Do?
There are a few simple things you can take to help reduce the noise in your workplace. One option is to use engineering controls that reduce sound exposure levels that can be installed or modified for loud equipment. This can be a relatively simple solution that can greatly reduce noise hazards. You can also do small things like making sure your equipment is properly lubricated, placing a barrier between you and the noise, or isolating or enclosing the noise source.
If machines at your workplace are naturally loud, your employer should have a hearing conservation program implemented. Get with your manager to find out if your employer has a plan. The plan can include precautions like operating loud machinery during shifts when fewer people will be exposed to it, limiting the time an employee can work on equipment, installing noise monitoring devices, or conducting periodical hearing tests. If you feel like your employer should implement a program, talk to your HR manager to find out what can be done.
Remember, hearing loss from extreme noise exposure can’t be repaired naturally or medically. Many famous musicians, engineers, and producers have destroyed the same tool that gained them career success. Don’t pay the same price for a successful career.