Does Your Job Put You at Risk for Hearing Loss?
A full transcript is included below
Does your job put you at risk for hearing loss? That’s our topic today on Ask the Hearing Doctors.
Hi, I’m Jim Cuddy, and this is Ask the Hearing Doctors. And I’m joined today by Dr. Ana Anzola, doctor of audiology with Hearing Doctors. The Washington, D.C. area’s highest-rated audiology practice with over 1500 5-star reviews. Ana, is always great to see you.
Great to see you, too.
Ana, as I was getting ready for our talk today, and I started thinking about the different occupations where people could be subjected to hearing loss because of the noise. And there are so many of them. We’re going to touch on a bunch of them in a little bit. But what it led me to learn a little bit about was this noise-induced hearing loss. NIHL, what exactly is that?
Well, first of all, it’s the number one preventable hearing loss that we have out there. We can’t get away from being exposed to loud levels of noise, but it’s just being safe at listening levels. It’s important. And so the volume and then the other thing is the duration.
How do you at noise levels? Okay, if I’m in the car and I have the radio turned up, maybe I have the window down on a warm day, so I’m getting noise from a couple of different places, I’m not measuring how loud everything is at that point. So, what is there some sort of guideline that people can use just on an everyday basis?
Yes, I have the 60-60 rule. Okay, so 60% volume. So if you have a dial, you go all the way from down to minimum to the maximum. Try to put it around 50%, maybe even 60, but no more than 60 minutes. So remember, duration and volume.
So, it’s the level of the noise as well as how long you’re listening to it.
All right. Let’s talk about the workplace itself. Are there regulations around noise in the workplace?
Yes, so there’s a federal agency out there called OSHA, and they are responsible for regulating any type of safety issues at work. In this case, let’s talk about the noise. So, it’s 85 decibels for 8 hours.
That’s the limit.
That’s the limit on both the duration as well as the level.
Yeah, but I also encourage everybody to it’s so easy to download an application nowadays, and I actually have it, go to the movies and see how loud that is. And again, it’s about the exposure. So, we want to be very safe about this but be knowledgeable and just know the limits. Once the organ of hearing is exposed to very loud levels of noise, those little hair cells are damaged. They’re potentially at risk of being damaged, and this is a permanent damage. So, wearing hearing protection is what we encourage.
Ana, let’s talk now about who is most at risk. What occupations are most at risk for the noise-induced hearing loss, because in my research, as I said before, there are just so many jobs out there.
Yeah, so many. And we talked about and I think the most important thing I want to discuss here today is the importance of hearing protection. There are 22 million Americans that are exposed to loud levels of noise but with inadequate hearing protection.
So, the construction worker, yes, the factory worker, if they just had the hearing protection, assuming that they don’t, they could avoid a lot of other problems.
Yeah, military also; we worry about them. And it’s just, again, very important to take action and take it upon yourself to actually take those guidelines and watch out if there are just too much noise around them and you can easily measure that. The reality is that if the noise is going to fluctuate from day to day, there’s not one day that it’s alike, and therefore, the noise can be putting you at risk even as we speak, right? And so it’s important to be your own advocate.
I imagine that there are a lot of occupations that you might not realize. For instance, working in a restaurant, and sometimes the music levels are louder if it’s dinnertime, it’s lower if it’s at lunchtime, and that kind of thing, and those are all psychological games, evidently, that they like to play, but that could make a big difference. And you don’t think to wear hearing protection if you’re working in a restaurant.
Exactly. Bars, right? The noise can go from 95 to 140. Music venues. It might be music to your ears but very damaging. And the potential is there. But again, the reality is that if you know that it’s going to be loud, just wearing some sort of protection, so something is better than nothing, and sometimes you may need to double up. You can have the inserts and then you can have the actual headphones on top. So, that’s what I recommend.
Now, you mentioned before OSHA.
And they have the guidelines for workplace safety and that kind of thing, and especially when it comes to noise. What about the employer? What’s on the employer? What do they need to do? How are they responsible for this? I can take care of some stuff by myself, but I would imagine some of this falls on them as well.
Yeah, absolutely. So, the regulation, like we talked about, it’s 85 decibels for 8 hours. But a hearing conservation program, the implementation of that is the employer’s responsibility. Making sure that all of their employees have their hearing checked on an annual basis; that’s important. Make sure that they’re having also the implementation of hearing protection. So, hearing conservation programs are very critical to their success and productivity at the end of the day.
Absolutely, yeah. If I’m in a workplace where I need to be able to hear direction from somebody else, but it’s loud and I need ear protection, now I’m running into a situation where I might not be able to hear the directions I’m supposed to be hearing.
Right. So, I think they take that into account. Sometimes you have, like, a walkie talkie and things like that, and so that could make the communication very easily or you minimize the distance between if I really want to talk to you, I need to grab your attention and really just have that eye-to-eye communication. Again, hearing protection. The reality is that it could be preventable as long as you’re using adequate hearing protection.
Okay. And maybe cue cards, maybe that’s a way to get around it, too.
It’s great information. It’s really important to test. And as you say, there are apps out there that you can check the dBs that you’re listening to. And I have a feeling some people might be surprised at just how loud the environment is around them.
I know. I know. But again, taking action, knowing your numbers, knowing what’s appropriate. If you have ringing in the ears, that venue was very loud. And again, it can actually recover itself. But again, it’s important to know that we want to implement the use of hearing protection.
Get out there in front of it, get your hearing protection, and all is good.
Ana, thanks so much for your time.
Thank you so much.
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