Hearing Damage by Career: Professions Which Carry the Highest Risks

Could your work be causing hearing loss? Hearing loss has lots of underlying causes, but the most prevalent remains noise-induced hearing loss. For those who work in one of the following high-noise occupations, you have cause to be concerned about your hearing.The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 30 million workers are subjected to dangerous noise at work and an additional nine million risk hearing loss from other agents such as solvents and metals.The best thing that you can do is to inform yourself about the dangers of noise and have an open conversation with your employer.

All employees should assess their own work environments for high-noise levels, particularly anyone in the following job roles.

Manufacturing – Manufacturing jobs constitute the greatest numbers of permanent hearing disabilities suffered on the job. Manufacturing positions regularly expose workers to machinery and equipment which generates over 90 decibels of noise over extended periods.

Construction Workers – The second highest number of permanent hearing loss disabilities suffered at work is among construction workers. Construction equipment regularly exposes workers to heavy machinery that generates upwards of 90 decibels of noise. A study of construction workers in WA State revealed that workers were exposed to 85 decibels or higher in about 70% of their shifts, yet wore their hearing protection less than 20% of the time.

Motorcycle Courier – A study of motorcycle noise under various road conditions at speeds ranging from 45 mph to 65 noted that the sound level measured ranged from 70 decibels to 128 decibels.

DJs, Bartenders and Nightclub Staff – Everyone that works in a nightclub – bartenders, security, wait staff – is at risk, not just the musicians. In a controlled research study, noise levels of up to 108 decibels were recorded in the nightclubs. The average sound level for a normal session was 96 decibels which is above the sound level at which the provision of hearing protection is required for employers in industry. The research determined that Disc Jockeys are at sizeable risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss and sound exposure in nightclubs frequently exceeds safe levels.

Band & Orchestra – A study on the noise exposures of classical musicians experienced during both performances and rehearsals found that the brass section averaged 95 decibels while the strings and brass section averaged 90 decibels. Peak volumes were 130 decibels in the percussion and brass sections of the orchestra. Another Swedish study revealed that 59 out of 139 orchestra musicians had hearing losses greater than that normal for their ages.

Airport Staff – The sound of a jet engine is among the loudest occupational hazards, with sound levels at a stunning 140 dB.

Firefighters / Ambulance Drivers – All of the sirens squealing add up over time. Numerous studies have explored the frequency of hearing disabilities in firefighters and ambulance drivers with most finding that firefighters experienced accelerated hearing loss relative to the general population of similar age.

Military – The primary disability among US military personnel is hearing loss. According to the Deafness Research Foundation, more than 65 percent of combat troops returning from Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.

Plumbers – The Center for Disease Control website states that 48 percent of plumbers reported that they had a perceived hearing loss.

Farming – Farmers are frequently exposed to extreme noise and the use of hearing protection among farmers is uncommon. Research studies of male farmers observed that by age 30, 25% already had a hearing loss. By age 50, the rate of hearing impairment rose to 50 percent.

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