Hearing Loss by Job: Occupations That Have the Highest Risks

Blogging about hearing lossCould your work be contributing to your hearing loss? Extreme noise levels are one of the most frequent reasons for hearing damage. For those who work in one of the following high-noise professions, you have cause to be concerned about your hearing.An estimated 30 million workers risk unsafe noise exposure at work according to the CDC.Occupational hearing safety is best tackled with factual information and an open dialogue between companies and staff. Workers should educate themselves about the risks.

Risk of hearing impairment needs to be reduced to the greatest extent possible in any occupation. The following is a partial list of particularly noisy jobs.

Musicians – Across practices, recordings and performances, musicians are continually engulfed in sound. The list of renowned music artists with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus keeps growing each year. Popular names on the current list include Ozzy Osbourne, Neil Young, will.i.am, Brian Wilson, and Beethoven.

Orchestra & Band – Research on the noise exposures of classical musicians encountered across both performances and rehearsals found that the strings and percussion sections averaged 90 decibels while the brass section averaged 95 decibels. Top volumes were 130 decibels in the brass and percussion sections of the orchestra. A different Swedish study demonstrated that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians had hearing losses higher than that normal for their ages.

DJs and Nightclub Staff – Absolutely everyone that works in a nightclub – bartenders, security, wait staff – is at risk, not just the musicians. In a controlled research study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average level for a standard night out was 96 decibels which is over the level at which the provision of hearing protection is mandatory for employers in industry. The research determined that Disc Jockeys are at considerable risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and sound exposure in nightclubs regularly exceeds safe levels.

Construction – The second greatest number of permanent hearing losses suffered on the job is among construction workers. Construction equipment regularly exposes staff to machinery that produces upwards of 90 decibels. A WA State examination of construction workers found that in spite of being exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels during 70 percent of their shifts, construction workers only wore hearing protectors 20% of the time (or less).

Airport Staff – The sound of a jet airplane engine is one of the loudest occupational hazards, with noise levels at a shocking 140 dB.

Firefighters – The many sirens squealing add up over time. Several research studies have explored the frequency of hearing problems in firefighters and emergency vehicle drivers with most concluding that firefighters experienced increased hearing damage when compared with the general public of similar age.

Motorcycle Courier – Research on motorcycle noise – with and without helmets – under a variety of road conditions at speeds between 45 mph to 65 documented that the sound level measured varied from 70 to 128 decibels.

Armed Forces – Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the leading disability amongst US military personnel. Up to 65% of combat troops returning from Afghanistan have noise-induced hearing loss according to the Deafness Research Foundation.

Manufacturing – The majority of permanent hearing loss disabilities suffered on the job come from manufacturing. Manufacturing positions repeatedly expose workers to equipment and machinery which generates upwards of 90 decibels of noise.

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