Noise-induced hearing loss affects over 12 percent of children ages 6 through 19 and 17 percent of adults ages 20 through 69, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That's over 30 million Americans who have permanent hearing damage. If you have concerns about noise-induced job-related hearing loss, take a look at who is most likely to experience this condition.
There are two primary causes of noise-induced hearing loss - impulse sounds and continuous exposure. Construction workers who use or are near explosives are prone to impulse sound-related hearing loss. An impulse sound is a one-time high-decibel event. Sounds that reach above 85 decibels can cause damage. The higher the decibel, the more likely that impulse sound damage will occur.
Exposure to constant loud and high decibel sounds can also trigger noise-induced hearing loss. Construction workers may experience this type of hearing damage or loss while working around noisy traffic, using power machinery (such as a jackhammer), or when driving loud vehicles. While a one-time exposure typically won't cause damage, weeks, months, or years of damage may.
While the risk for damage is present, construction workers can prevent hearing loss by wearing ear plugs or protective ear covers. If damage does occur, a professional evaluation by an audiologist is necessary to diagnosis the condition and create a treatment plan.
The noise level of a live performance isn't always high enough to negatively affect a musician. Exposure to a violin, piano, or flute on its own won't cause hearing problems. But when you add electricity and amplification to an instrument, you increase the decibels enough to cause permanent damage.
Even though musicians may have the highest likelihood of consistent exposure to loud instruments (which results in either impulse or continuous-related loss), music fans and anyone who works in a concert venue are also at risk. Without proper ear protection, anyone who is in close range of an amplifier or speaker system can suffer damage - whether the music is live or recorded.
Like construction workers, musicians, concert venue employees, and music lovers who have noise-induced hearing loss need to seek out professional help as soon as possible. While permanent loss isn't reversible, it is possible to restore some hearing.
Sirens can reach 120 decibels, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). This is well above the level necessary to cause noise-induced hearing loss. Paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, and police are all at risk for serious permanent damage following consistent exposure to their vehicles' sirens.
While siren-related noise is unavoidable for most first responders, people who serve in these jobs can take steps to minimize potential hearing damage. Closing vehicle windows reduces the noise exposure level, which makes the sirens' sounds somewhat safer.
Routine hearing screenings can also reduce some of the long-lasting effects. The sooner a diagnosis is made, the sooner treatment can begin. This often includes the use of assistive devices, such as hearing aids.
Dentists and Dental Employees
The dentist's office is quiet in comparison to the construction worker's jackhammer, the rock star's electric guitar, or the ambulance's siren. But that doesn't mean dental professionals aren't at risk for noise-induced hearing damage.
Powered dental tools, such as the drill, make noise at a high decibel level. Repeated exposure on a daily or weekly basis can cause permanent hearing loss. Like other types of repeated noise exposure, working with or around a dentist's drill may require the use of ear plugs or other similar coverings.
Again, a dentist or dental employee who experiences job-related hearing loss should seek professional help immediately.
Do you have noise-induced hearing loss? Contact House of Hearing for more information on solutions.