Workplace hearing protection could prevent tinnitus
When you were small and didn’t want to hear something, you covered your ears with your hands. As you grew older and experienced noise that hurt your ears, you most likely removed yourself from the situation. But what happens if your workplace is noisy?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says employers must offer hearing protection to any employee exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels during the course of an eight hour day. But organizations such as the American Tinnitus Association are asking employers to do more than the minimum required.
“Workplace noise exposure is a growing national health issue that seriously jeopardizes the long-term well-being of workers and the overall productivity of businesses” said Cara James, executive director of the American Tinnitus Association. “Fortunately, this is a crisis that can be averted through simple preventive measures. ATA encourages both employers and employees to take active steps to protect their hearing and minimize the long-term risks of noise exposure.”
What is tinnitus?
According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), as many as 30,000 Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work. More than 26 million Americans experience hearing loss as a result of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). In addition to permanent hearing damage, NIHL can also cause tinnitus, a condition in which individuals constantly hear noises which do not exist. These phantom noises are often described as ringing, buzzing or hissing.
What causes it?
Noise is the leading cause of tinnitus; however, it can also be caused by head and neck trauma, certain types of diseases, cardiovascular disease, jaw misalignment, tumors, wax buildup, and medications detrimental to hearing health.
The ATA estimates more than 50 million Americans experience tinnitus. Of these, 16 million seek treatment for it every year and 2 million are so debilitated by the disorder they cannot function on a daily level. According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, tinnitus was the number one service disability for our armed service personnel in 2012. Musicians, construction workers and others exposed to constant loud noise are other populations reporting large instances of this disorder.
How can you minimize noise at work?
If you suspect your workplace exceeds noise levels for healthy hearing, talk to your employer. The ATA urges employers to develop engineering controls that will reduce overall noise input and implement administrative procedures to minimize the amount of exposure employees have to loud noise.
Try reducing workplace noise levels by: