It’s not just you. From your street to your workplace to your favorite restaurant, the world is a loud place, and it’s getting louder.
If you’ve noticed all the noise, you can at least take solace in the fact that your ears are working. Health advocates warn that the constant, daily clamor many of us are exposed to can harm our physical and psychological well-being. And given the ways people are accustomed to tuning out unpleasant sounds, we tend not to notice until the damage has been done.
Why should employers care? Because, as EHS Today reports, “hearing loss disability accounts for an estimated $242 million in workers’ compensation payments each year, according to the Department of Labor.”
The magazine recently published an excellent article that provides an overview of workplace-related hearing loss and what businesses can do to protect their employees. Considering the scope of the problem, its prevalence in industries such as manufacturing and construction, and its correlation with greater accidents (due to hearing-impaired workers’ “reduced situational awareness”), this is a crisis every employer should take seriously:
“Approximately 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 15% of those aged 20 to 65 are living with some level of noise-induced hearing loss.
Noises over 85 decibels (dB) warrant the use of protection. For reference, normal talking is 60 dB, city traffic is 85 dB and a rock concert or a tractor is about 100-115 dB. Without proper protection, prolonged noise exposure in a factory setting can compound the hearing loss incurred from everyday noises. Because hearing damage is cumulative and permanent, it is vital—and in many cases required—for businesses to protect their workers’ hearing, especially for those with a workforce exposed to loud machinery, power tools, and heavy equipment.”
What can you do to prevent hearing loss? EHS Today offers a few potential strategies:
- regular, ongoing sound monitoring
- sound testing and recording via audiograms
- training employees on the risks of hearing loss and the importance of prevention
- the use of protective equipment such as earplugs and earmuffs