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Does Your Job Put You at Risk for Hearing Loss?

Certain trades are more likely to have employees suffer from noise-induced hearing loss. Learn what employers are required to do to help protect your hearing.



Does your job put you at risk for hearing loss? That's our topic today on Ask The Hearing Doctors.



Hi, I'm Jim Cuddy. And this is Ask The Hearing Doctors. And I'm joined today by Dr. Wendy Thorne, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors, the Washington DC area's highest-rated audiology practice with over 1500, five-star reviews. Wendy as always great to see you. You too. 


So, this, I don’t know if this is a silly question but it's, it's, it seems to me like it's an obvious question, what is noise-induced hearing loss?


So, that is exactly as it sounds it's hearing loss caused by noise and it is the only preventable type of hearing loss. The only preventable. The only preventable type.


So, when it comes to noise exposure what are the, what are the things we need to be aware of?


So, there's really two things that were more concerned about when you're in noisy places. It's not just how loud it is, but how long you're exposed to those different levels of sound.


Okay, and we'll get to those numbers in a second.  What happens to the ear, what happens inside the ear when you are exposed to to for prolonged periods to these these high decibels?


Yeah, so in your cochlea which is your organ for hearing there are uh little hair cells, um they're called cilia, so they kind of stand straight up. When there is sound they move and that's how what transmits the sound to your brain. When you're exposed to really loud sound they're moving a lot more. Sometimes they if you're maybe there was a gunshot right by your ear that's going to actually break the hair cells immediately. So the more hair cells that bend and break the less sound that can get up to your brain.


When that happens can they recover? No. They can't? That’s it? They cannot. Once they, once they're broken, they're they're broken, unfortunately. Wow.


There are standards, government standards, in fact, um Occupational Safety and Health Administration, OSHA, regulates the workplace. Safety noise exposure limits are set to 85 decibels for eight hours. Yes. What does 85 decibels translate to?


In real life that would be like a lawnmower or really loud noisy, busy city traffic. That's roughly about 85 decibels. That's kind of everyday stuff when you think about it when you're you know driving around and you know the lawnmowers are going and the blowers and all that kind of thing. Exactly.


Um, are there, are there rules in place in the workplace that employers are following or need to follow to to make sure that their employees aren't overexposed?  What do they do?


Yeah, so employees or employers, I should say. When they're in noisy workplaces because sometimes those environments you you can't avoid them that's just the the nature of the work. The employers are required to provide proper hearing protection to protect those ears when they're in that noisy place.


So, Wendy if you're an employee in one of these occupations we've talked about or you know maybe you're in the music industry or whatever it is what are the requirements or some of the requirements anyway for the employer towards the employee?


So, you know there's a couple of things that the employers are required to do. Um, that is providing hearing protection. But not just any protection the correct protection. Um, they should also be doing sound-level measurements. So they're going to actually be measuring the sound in the environment to make sure it is not exceeding what is kind of like their safety, their safety level. They should also be providing annual hearing tests for the employees as well to make sure if there is any change in hearing loss that that can be caught early and prevent any further damage to the ears. They should also be checking that the hearing protection that they're providing is adequate for that sound environment. Whatever that level of noise is. Exactly.


And you know obviously, you can also help yourself just by going to see an audiologist and get your ears checked for starters and then explain to the audiologist you know what your environment is like and perhaps maybe even get a better solution than you get from the employer. Exactly. Yeah, Wendy, thank you so much for your time. Thank you. 

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