Factories and manufacturing plants have always been noisy, what with heavy equipment, stamping machines, extruders, forklifts - it's a cacophony of sound on some assembly floors. And, by now, company owners and assembly line managers are well aware of the problems of noise-induced hearing loss and the fines that OSHA levies when workers' hearing is unprotected. Even so, many workers spend their shifts working without any ear protection at all. By choice!
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common workplace injuries, yet it's also one of the most insidious. Hearing loss occurs over time so the impact isn't immediate. Drop a pallet of iron ingots on your pinky toe and the effect is immediate and you start hopping around in pain - and maybe looking around for a severed pinky toe.
The president of The National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA), Teresa Schulz, knows all about noise-induced hearing loss. She's heard all the sad stories.
At a recent convention, the subject turned to tinnitus, aka ringing in the ears - for many a problem even worse than hearing loss itself. "Tinnitus can be, for many, even worse than the hearing loss itself, as the sounds can become distressing and in many cases, they never go away," Schulz says.
Go Pro-Active In the Workplace
Obviously, the best defense against hearing loss is to wear hearing protection. Depending on the workplace, this protection can range from earplugs to noise cancellation ear cups.
Don't think of a noisy workplace as a coal mine or assembly plant. With open offices, there's a lot of cross talk taking place throughout the day and though you may not be aware of it (it's not painful) nonetheless it's there. So, give a listen to the noise levels in and any work place - office, outdoors, driving a semi, industrial or construction site - there's noise everywhere.
For more information on OSHA Regulations and protecting your hearing in the workplace read: OSHA: 20 Years of Workplace Noise Regulations.