Keeping Your Job by Losing Your Hearing—Workplace Noise Exposure Risks, Protection, and Compensation
Believe it or not, one of the most common workplace injuries that lead to long-term trauma is not anything gory or dramatic—it’s hearing loss.
Millions of people in the United States work in an environment that exposes them to potentially damaging noise. Therefore, just as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) regulates workplace exposure to dangerous chemicals and conditions, it also sets standards for noise exposure. These standards include regulations for controlling, measuring, and limiting noise pollution to ensure that employees, and their ears, remain safe.
In fields like construction or manufacturing that involve regular exposure to loud equipment, OSHA suggests a simple three-step process for reducing noise hazards on the job:
- Reduce it. Ensure the equipment used is the quietest available, that it’s well-maintained, and that it is retrofitted properly.
- Move it. If noisy equipment can be moved away from workers, or workers can be removed from noisy areas, the move should be addressed to create a maximum distance for the sound to dissipate.
- Block it. Acoustic barriers—even primitive ones—can go a long way in reducing equipment noise.
Why Protection Is So Important
In the manufacturing industry, hearing loss accounts for one in nine reports of occupational illness or injury, making it the most common complaint. Noise-induced hearing loss is not treatable via surgery or hearing aids. Furthermore, since hearing deterioration is gradual, once noticed, the irreversible damage will most likely have taken its course.
Typically, employers provide workers with disposable foam ear plugs when they’re required to work around a lot of noise. However, these plugs are often ineffective, as they’re frequently used incorrectly and removed to use two-way radios or to carry on conversations. Therefore, in an attempt to limit work-related hearing loss, OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with proper hearing protection as well as training on how to use it effectively. If your job involves regular exposure to hazardous noise levels, your employer should also offer annual tests to monitor your hearing over the course of your career.
Ideal Hearing Protection
Industries that produce a lot of damaging noise should make the investment in high-quality hearing protection for their workers. What is needed in every traumatically noisy workplace is hearing protection that fits, that’s comfortable, and that allows the user to communicate without removing his protection. As no two ears are alike, a one-size-fits-all approach is not only ineffective but, frankly, offensive. If an ear plug works in your co-worker’s ear but not your own, does that mean you don’t deserve protection? No. No it doesn’t.
In order to increase compliance among workers, hearing protection should offer all of the following:
- Adjustable or custom fit. Hearing protection that is custom fit to each worker is ideal. Having a service come in to take impressions of each worker’s ear canals and outer ears and then produce custom devices for each individual will ensure a perfect fit for everyone.
- Long-term comfort. The latest devices are made from medical-grade silicone and are soft and pliable, making them comfortable enough to wear all day.
- Effective communication. For workers who must frequently talk via two-way radios, there are hearing protection devices available that can be wired into the radio so that workers can hear them without removing the protection.
When it comes to protecting workers from hearing loss, no cost should be too much for employers to consider. If you have suffered hearing trauma as a result of work conditions and inadequate protection, you may need to apply for worker’s compensation right away to cover your medical expenses.
Contact us through our live chat to find out more on how to pursue a successful claim. Remember, your employer should be held accountable for dismissing your safety. If he didn’t feel that it was important to listen to OSHA’s recommendations before your injury, we’ll make darn sure he hears your grievances now. Contact us today to have your voice heard.