If you work in a noisy environment or with chemicals, your job may be causing you to lose your hearing. Employees from various industries face risks of hearing loss due to prolonged noise and chemical exposure. Unfortunately, hearing loss is permanent and often goes undetected until it’s too late.
What causes hearing loss in the workplace?
While hearing loss is often associated with aging, other factors such as hazardous noise or chemicals can also cause hearing loss.
Hazardous noise levels
Those who use loud machinery or operate in noisy environments may not realize how harmful it is to their hearing. On average, humans can tolerate a noise level of about 70 dB, about as loud as a standard washing machine. However, long-term exposure to noise at this range or louder can cause ear damage over time.
If an employee is exposed to a 120 dB level noise, it may cause immediate hearing loss or ear damage. The closer an employee is to the noise source, the more damage it may do. Plane takeoffs, gunfire and sirens fall within this category.
Below are some examples of employees and potential sources of noise around them:
- Concert staff (crowds and loudspeakers)
- Farmers (livestock and heavy machinery)
- Flight crew (plane takeoff)
- Ambulance staff (sirens)
- Construction workers (power tools and equipment)
Generally, if a noise causes physical pain, ringing or lingering hearing difficulty, those are indicators that it is too loud.
Ototoxic chemicals are those that, when breathed, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin, can cause harm to the ear. Chemicals like these can sometimes increase sensitivity to loud noises, leading to permanent hearing loss.
Household products like paint and cleansers are common sources of ototoxic chemicals. However, specific jobs, such as those in construction, manufacturing and aircraft, may subject employees to both chemicals and harmful noises, increasing their risk of ear damage.
What to do when your hearing has been damaged at work
Workers’ compensation should be available to eligible workers who suffer hearing loss due to their jobs. But it might not be as easy as it sounds. Your employer may argue that your hearing loss is a result of something else.
Loss of hearing is permanent and may drastically affect a person’s quality of life. If you are having trouble claiming your workers’ comp benefits, you may reach out to an attorney. An attorney can help build your case and fight for your rights.