Chances are you haven’t, if you are among the 22 million U.S. workers who are exposed to hazardous noise on the job, with about 9 million suffering from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  Did you know that NIHL is the most common, permanent, and preventable occupational injury in the U.S?  Occupational hearing loss costs an estimated $242.4 million per year in disability extended across the workforce of our nation, according to NIOSH.

It is up to the employer to make the workplace quieter.  Prolonged exposure to excessive noise levels can cause permanent hearing loss.  They must know the levels of the noise that workers are exposed to and the risk to their hearing.  Employees who are exposed to a rate of 90 decibels or more an eight hour shift should have the noise level in their workplace reduced, or wear protective gear.  Sometime you have probably had tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or your ears felt stuffed up, when you walked away from a noisy area.  If this continues, you may have some hearing loss.

There are noise control devices that employees may wear, but require proper training on their use, as well as how to care for them. 

  • Industrial Earmuffs.  They totally cover the ears and should fit tightly, with no hair or other object to interfere with the seal.  The seals and inside of the earmuffs should be kept clean, and the headband should furnish good tension.
  • Hearing Protection Earplugs.  There are many types of earplugs that also should fit properly.  Workers should never share them, and have clean hands before inserting them.  The ear canal is 1 1/4″ long, and most earplugs are only 1/2″ to 3/4″ long.  They are premolded or have stems with which to insert them.

Hearing protection lowers the noise level of equipment, but does not eliminate it.  Workers are still able to hear the equipment and voices of co-workers.  A good sign that you need hearing protection is if you have to raise your voice to talk to someone an arms’ length away, or if you experience ringing or dull sounds after leaving a noisy place.

Work isn’t the only place that we are exposed to too much noise.  You might consider buying earplugs to wear in large crowds, concerts, car races, or sporting events.  I’ve been to some very loud football games, and the World Cup Soccer event proved that noise even interferes with the players’ concentration.  If you enjoy using power tools, earplugs will help protect your hearing.

There’s just one pair of ears to a customer, so take care of yours.  If you heed our warning, you won’t miss out on the latest news or juicy gossip!