How Employees Can Protect Their Hearing at Work

man in his garage cutting wood while wearing yellow over the ears protectors

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that around 22 million workers in the United States are regularly exposed to noise hazards as part of their jobs. Hearing loss is irreversible health damage that can be caused by on-the-job conditions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that businesses pay approximately $242 million every year in compensation for workers’ complaints about hearing loss. 

Unfortunately, while compensation can help workers adjust to their new lifestyle after hearing loss, it cannot reverse the process. Many US businesses fail to put adequate hearing protection in place for their employees, leading to over $1.5 million in penalties. 

If you are concerned about potential damage to your hearing, our expert audiologist at Hearing Solutions of Louisiana provides here the best hearing protection tips for professionals. 

What is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is directly connected to exposure to loud noises in the professional environment. This could be the case of long-term exposure, such as working in a noisy environment or using noisy equipment as part of your everyday activities. Employees in an engineering workshop or those who use impact drill tools are more likely to be affected. 

Alternatively, you could be exposed to a sudden and abnormally loud noise, such as an explosion. 

Hearing loss occurs when the hair cells inside the ear get damaged. Hearing loss is typically permanent. However, individuals can experience temporary hearing loss after being exposed to loud noises without sufficient hearing protection. It could take several days for your ears to recover. Unfortunately, recovery is not always guaranteed. 

It is important to understand that other factors can contribute to hearing loss, such as hereditary factors or the aging process. However, while these should be taken into consideration when it comes to hearing health, they are not connected to the working environment. 

What Hearing Protection Steps Can You Take?

Employers in the United States are legally responsible for informing and protecting their employees about hearing loss risks on the job. As a result, employers provide essential health and safety recommendations and best practices:

  • Safety rules regarding the wear of hearing protection
  • Providing hearing protection for teams who work in loud environments
  • Frequent maintenance checks and audits of existing hearing protection devices
  • Safe storage for hearing protection devices
  • Mandatory hearing tests for some professions
  • Prohibition to temper with hearing protection instruments
  • Compliance with frequent rest breaks 
  • Training for employees working with loud machinery

Employees can also take preventive steps to ensure they can look after their hearing and preserve it:

  • Comply with the existing hearing protection rules in place
  • Do not wear damaged or poorly-fitting protection
  • Do not wear dirty or insalubrious hearing protection
  • Take regular breaks away from loud working environments when/if possible
  • Report issues with hearing protection or noise levels to the employer

Additionally, employees can also reach out to a professional audiologist to discuss their requirements. Indeed, not every work environment will provide hearing protection. Yet, if you are concerned about hearing health, your audiologist can recommend the most suitable protection for your daily activities, even if you work in an office. 

Pay Attention to Early Signs of Hearing Loss

It is never too early to check on your hearing health, even if your employment doesn’t require regular hearing tests. Indeed, with the right protection, hearing loss can be preventable. 

Unfortunately, as the process of losing hearing is often painless and gradual, not everyone is able to act on time to prevent further damage. However, the sooner to act upon early signs of hearing loss, the earlier you can protect your hearing and prevent further deterioration. 

Here are some of the signs you need to pay attention to:

  • Your ears are frequently ringing or buzzing at work or after work. 
  • You find it difficult to follow group conversations.
  • You can’t identify the direction from which a noise is coming.
  • You feel that listening to conversations is straining.
  • You often ask people to repeat what they’ve just said. 
  • You experience difficulties hearing high-pitched noises such as the doorbell or a phone ringing. 
  • You find some similar sounds undistinguishable such as “t”, “d”, and “s”. 
  • People complain that you often answer inappropriately in conversations. 

If you experience any of the issues mentioned above or more, we strongly advise you to get in touch with Hearing Solutions of Louisiana and book an appointment with an audiologist at (337) 607-0630. We can help you find the right hearing protection for your situation to prevent any further issues. We can also help you with adequate hearing solutions to correct an existing deficit and improve your quality of life.