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Occupational hearing loss, common and preventable

Anyone who has ever attempted to carry on a conversation at a crowded and noisy restaurant can likely recall feeling frustrated when trying to hear and understand what was being said. Now imagine that you experience this same degree of difficulty and frustration when trying to hear your spouse while sitting at your own kitchen table.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 13 percent of U.S. workers have suffered occupational-related hearing loss. Among the workers identified as suffering "moderate or worse hearing loss" are those who work in construction, manufacturing and mining. For these men and women, the negative effects of hearing loss are readily apparent and can have far-reaching implications in both their personal and professional lives.

Hearing loss can rob an individual of the ability to socialize and affect his or her ability to engage in even intimate discussions with a spouse or partner. Additionally, workers who suffer hearing loss are at an increased risk of being involved in accidents as they may be unable to hear and therefore heed the warnings of co-workers about safety risks and other dangers.

While safety experts estimate that "hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition," in the U.S., it is also almost always preventable. This is often especially true when it comes to occupational hearing loss as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed loud noise exposure limits which employers should follow. Additionally, employers should provide and encourage workers to wear protective equipment like ear plugs and headphones.

Workers who have suffered hearing loss due to exposure to high noise levels at work should have their hearing tested and speak with a doctor about ways to prevent additional damage. In some cases, worker's hearing loss may be so extreme that a worker is no longer able to safely work. In these cases, it's wise to explore obtaining workers' compensation and disability benefits.

Source: CBS, "1 in 8 U.S. workers has some hearing loss: CDC," E.J. Mundell, April 22, 2016

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