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Excessive noise at work may cause hearing loss

Our five senses help us both experience and interpret the world around us. From the foods we eat and the things we touch to the sights we see and the sounds we hear, our senses bring us pleasure and alert us to danger. Given the significant role that each of our senses plays in helping us make sense of and enjoy our environment, a loss or deficiency to one or more can prove to be debilitating.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, annually in the United States, an estimated "30 million people are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise." Individuals who work in certain professions like construction and manufacturing are often particularly at risk for suffering hearing damage and loss due to unsafe noise levels at work.

Frequently, workers who are exposed to high levels of noise over an extended period of time suffer either temporary damage or permanent hearing loss. When an individual experiences temporary damage, noises may sound muffled or he or she may hear a high pitched noise or ringing. Often, these types of symptoms improve with time or reduce in severity.

In cases were a worker suffers permanent hearing loss, such damage cannot be repaired with surgery or improved with a hearing aid device. Workers who have concerns about excessive noise levels would be wise to address their concerns with an employer. At the minimum, employers should provide workers with safety and protective gear like ear plugs and/or earmuffs. Ideally, employers should take steps to institute administrative controls to "reduce or eliminate the worker exposure to noise."

Examples of administrative controls include running loud machinery and equipment during less busy work shifts, reducing the number of minutes individual workers are exposed to excessive noise levels within a work shift and ensuring workers are a sufficient distance away from excessive noise sources.

Source: OSHA.gov, "Occupational Noise Exposure," Jan. 7, 2015

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