When we talk about workplace injuries and their effects on your long-term health, we most often think about the loud and obvious. Slips, trips, and falls, machinery accidents, fire risks and the like. Sometimes, we’ll focus on problems like back pain and repetitive strain injury caused by poor work posture and bad ergonomics. But there’s a growing risk in a lot of workplaces that we need to know about. Hearing loss accounts for 14% of all occupation illness and we need to learn this risks.

How it works

There are a lot of different factors that can lead to hearing loss over time. Age plays a big role, some illnesses and medications can have an effect, too. But the most common physical cause is exposure to loud noises. There are ten million people suffering from noise-related hearing loss and four million a day going to a work environment where noise plays too large a factor. 82% of all cases of occupational hearing loss take place in manufacturing workplaces. But there are plenty of other workplaces doing damage. Construction, ship building, airfields, we’re even at risk in nightclubs. If you’re starting to notice problems with your hearing, whether it’s temporary hearing loss, occasional ringing, buzzing, or hissing, or even having to turn the TV up to hear it properly, you might have been exposed to harmful levels of noise.

Your rights

Occupation hearing loss is covered by your employer’s responsibility for the health and safety of the workplace. As the most common form of workplace injury, it should be. Any hearing loss treatment you seek in the workplace should be covered by your employer and if you can seek compensation if they prove unwilling to provide. Some are misinformed that because it’s an ongoing condition that they can’t prove an employer’s responsibility. But that’s not true. An audiogram shows not just the fact you’re suffering from hearing loss but can make clear the distinct cause of it.

What you can do about it

There’s plenty of treatment available for those suffering from hearing loss. Getting a hearing aid fitting, tinnitus masking, relief therapy and the like can make hearing loss a lot more bearable. But, so far, there are no ways to reverse the damage. If you’re worried about the working environment having an effect on your hearing, act early on it. Talk to your employer first. See if they can’t install more preventative measures. The best way to take a look at how long you get exposed to certain levels of noise. For instance, you should be exposed to sounds louder than 110 decibels no more than 30 minutes a day. Acoustic barriers, personal protection equipment and preventative equipment can be a lot of help.

Twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise in the workplace every year. Your employers should be the one taking note of the risk and taking action against it, but you the employee can also get the ball rolling on prevention and treatment by speaking up. Don’t let work take your hearing from you.