Could your job be causing hearing damage? Hearing loss has lots of underlying causes, but the most common continues to be noise-induced hearing loss. Some occupations are simply more noisy than others, and workers in those fields should be reasonably worried about their hearing.An estimated 30 million workers are at risk of unsafe noise exposure at work according to the CDC.The most important thing that you can do is to keep yourself well-informed about the potential risks and have an open conversation with your employer.
The risk of hearing damage needs to be reduced as best as possible in any profession. The following is a starter list of especially noisy positions.
- DJs, Bartenders and Nightclub Staff – Absolutely everyone that works at a nightclub – security, wait staff, bartenders – is at risk, not just the DJs. In a managed study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average noise level for a standard session was 96 decibels which is over the level at which the provision of hearing protection is required for employers in industry. The research concluded that Disc Jockeys are at considerable risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and noise exposure in nightclubs frequently surpasses safe levels.
- Construction Workers – Construction workers rank second highest for permanent hearing loss disabilities sustained on the job. Equipment used in construction frequently generates noise levels of 90 decibels. A study of construction workers in WA State showed that construction workers were surrounded by noise measuring 85 decibels or higher in about 70% of their shifts, yet wore their hearing protection less than 20% of the time.
- Musicians – Between practices, studio recording and concerts, musicians are continually surrounded by sound. The list of famed music artists with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus continues to grow each and every year. Widely recognized artists on the current list include Neil Young, Ozzy Osbourne, George Martin, Phil Collins Brian Wilson, will.i.am, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Beethoven.
- Band & Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced across both rehearsals and performances found that the brass section averaged 95 decibels while the strings and brass section averaged 90 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the percussion and brass sections. A different Swedish study demonstrated that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians (42%) had hearing losses higher than that expected for their ages.
- Airport Staff – The sound of a jet engine is one of the loudest occupational hazards, with sound levels at a shocking 140 dB.
- Firefighters / Ambulance Drivers – All of the sirens whirring add up over time. Several studies have examined the frequency of hearing disabilities in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most concluding that firefighters suffer increased hearing loss when compared with the general population of similar age.
- Military – The primary disability among US military personnel is hearing loss. According to the Deafness Research Foundation, over 65 percent of combat troops returning from Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
- Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control webpage for Work-Related Hearing Loss states that 48 percent of plumbers noted that they had a perceived hearing loss.
- Manufacturing – The largest number of permanent hearing loss disabilities suffered at work come from manufacturing. Manufacturing industries routinely expose employees to machinery and equipment which generates upwards of 90 decibels of noise.