Occupational noise exposures and hearing loss

Work environments can range greatly in Pennsylvania. While some employees have a quiet workspace in an office, others are in loud factories, mines or construction sites. The use of heavy machinery can cause much stress to the sense, especially ones’ ears. Thus, the concern for occupational noise exposure is heightened in these lines of work. As a result, it may be necessary to seek workers’ compensation benefits to address the issues arising from this work exposure.

Occupational noise exposure

Believe it or not, noise induced hearing loss is a fairly common illness, and based on recent statistics by OSHA, it accounted for roughly 12% or recordable illnesses in the U.S. in 2010. In other terms, this amounted to 18,748 cases that year.

Because of these numbers, OSHA identified areas of concerns in specific occupations. While many safety professionals and industrial hygienists utilize a sound level meter to assess areas where the noise level exceeds 85 dBA, which is the threshold limit set, this does not account for those exposed to a less dBA for an extended period of time. In spaces where the noise is above this threshold or there is an extended time of exposure, most employers will simply provide hearing protection versus making an attempt to reduce the noise levels.

Hearing loss

There are two types of hearing loss. The first is conductive hearing loss, which is described as the inability of sounds being conducted from the outer ear to the inner ear where the nerve endings would be stimulated. This type of hearing loss may be caused by an ear infection or by a physical blockage, such as a buildup of ear wax.

The second type is sensorineural hearing loss, which is caused by damage to one or more components of the middle or inner ear. When an individual sufferers noise induced hearing loss, it is always this type of hearing loss. Oftentimes, it is due to damage to the tiny hairs in the cochlea of the inner ear. These tiny hairs stimulate the nerve endings in the ear.

Even when specialized training and safety equipment is provided, workers may still suffer from occupational noise exposure. While this may be due to employer negligence, it could simply be the effects of the job. Therefore, it is important that an employee understands his or her options if hearing loss is experienced and is related to their job. Workers’ compensation may be a resourceful and necessary benefit to secure.