You do not have to be a roadie for a heavy metal band to be exposed to dangerous noise levels at work. If you find yourself having to shout to a colleague close by or suffer ringing in your ears when you leave your workplace, your hearing may be at risk.
According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work each year.
How “dangerous” levels of noise are defined
The CDC regards 85 decibels (dB) as the line where noise can become dangerous. The longer you are exposed to noise over that level, and the closer you are, the more dangerous it becomes. 85 dB is not as loud as you might think. Food blenders operate at around 88dB. Many lawnmowers produce 90 dB. Movie theaters can be above 90 dB, and metalworking machines may be over 100 dB. The sirens on police cars or ambulances are around 110 dB. Fighter jets can reach 150 dB during take-off.
Working with solvents can increase the risk of hearing loss
Certain chemical substances can make your ears more susceptible to noise damage. The CDC estimates this applies to at least 10 million workers exposed to what are called ototoxic chemicals through their on-the-job activities.
Hearing loss can be gradual or due to a one-off event
If you work in the military or with gas or explosives, you could suffer permanent hearing loss due to a one-off blast. Yet, for most people, hearing loss comes due to the persistent exposure to noise over time.
If there is excessive noise in your workplace, your employer must provide you with safety equipment to protect your hearing. Losing your hearing can affect your ability to carry out your job and everyday task such as crossing the street in safety. It can affect your ability to enjoy the world around you and the company of your friends and family. If your hearing is already damaged, legal options are available, such as workers’ compensation insurance.