Increase in Hearing Loss for Service Workers

According to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a large number of workers in the Services sector – the largest sector in the U.S. industry – are at an elevated risk for developing hearing loss. This research was published in the International Journal of Audiology at the end of last year.

What Is Occupational Hearing Loss?Handy tool belt

Occupational hearing loss is the result of exposure to hazardous noise levels or chemicals that are ototoxic.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, sounds over 85 dB can cause permanent hearing loss for those exposed over an eight-hour work day. This is because within the ears are tiny hair cells responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical energy. When unsafe sounds pass through the ears, it causes these cells to deteriorate, and once dead, they do not regenerate.

What Are the Risks of Occupational Hearing Loss?

Exposure to hazardous noise is associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Those with occupational hearing loss are also more likely to experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears), depression and cognitive decline.

Who Is Most at Risk?

The Mining, Construction and Manufacturing sectors have the highest percentages of workers exposed to hazardous noise levels. Researchers identified other sub-sectors within the Services industry that also are high-risk.

According to audiograms for 1.9 million workers across all industries, including 158,436 Services workers:

  • The prevalence of hearing loss within the Services sector is 17 percent, just over the average of all industries combined (16 percent).
  • Many sub-sectors greatly exceeded this prevalence by 10-33 percent, and many had a high risk for hearing loss.
  • Workers in Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development had the highest prevalence of hearing loss at 50 percent.
  • Workers in Solid Waste Combustors and Incinerators had more than double the risk of hearing loss, which was the highest of any sub sector.
  • Some sub-sectors viewed as “low-risk” had higher than expected hearing loss prevalences, including Custom Computer Programming Services (35 percent) and Elementary and Secondary Schools (26 percent).

If you’re in the Services industry, you’re at risk for developing occupational hearing loss. To schedule a hearing test or to talk about custom hearing protection, call Nevada Ear + Sinus Institute today!

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