Occupational Hearing Hazards

Occupational hearing hazards lead to occupational hearing loss, and that is one of the most common forms of workplace injury. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has tried to reduce workplace hearing risks. There are two main ways that hearing can become harmed on the job. Those are loud noises and chemicals that are harmful to hearing. Manufacturing, mining, construction, and other industrial occupations have the highest risk.

Understanding the cause of occupational hearing loss is the first step. But one must also know what the options are and what safety procedures may be able to help you stay safe in the workplace.

Causes of Work-Related Hearing Loss

The most common cause of hearing loss on the job is excessive noise. Very loud sounds can damage the inner ear, lowering the ability to hear sound in certain ranges. Sounds above 80 decibels (dB) have can cause hearing loss. If sounds above this level carry on for even a short period of time, you may experience damage. OSHA has regulated that a worker should only have exposure to an average of 90 dB over the course of an 8-hour workday. Furthermore, an increase of 5 dB over 90 dB must last for a shorter amount of time. For example, 95 dB of sound can only be endured for 4 hours, and 100 dB can only be endured for 2 hours. These employers are also required to give workers regular hearing tests, sound monitoring, protection, and training.

The other common cause of hearing loss in the workplace is exposure to ototoxic chemicals. Ototoxicity is just a word for being toxic to the ear. If someone breathes in, digests, or absorbs these chemicals through the skin, the chemicals can damage the inner ear.


Hearing Protection

Due to these hearing risks, prevention is the key. Hearing protection is the best step you can take to avoid hearing loss. Earmuffs and earplugs are good, but users must wear them correctly and regularly. Regulations require employers to train on the right ways and times to use these items. There are also custom-fit earplugs that are fitted precisely to the ear canal. Ask your employer about paying for these advanced earplugs if you work in a loud environment.

Using the Latest Technologies

Technology and engineering can help prevent workplace hearing loss. While some jobs are just going to be loud, others could be much quieter, which would lower the risk to workers. However, many corporations would rather sacrifice the hearing of their workers over having any loss of profit. In these cases, it may be helpful to work with your union. Group bargaining can be a good tool to get employers to use quieter technology when it is available. Similarly, options to replace harmful chemicals may be available. Though they continue to do what they know, other options may be out there that are simply not known to employers.

You might consider doing some research on your own about ototoxic chemicals. Particularly if you are dealing with regular exposure. If you find a non-toxic option, talk to your supervisors or labor unions.


Hearing risks are a necessary part of some jobs. However, the best protection and time restrictions are not optional. Better technology, different processes, and less harsh substances may reduce hearing hazards in the workplace. If you are concerned about your job, another option is to contact OSHA. This agency has a duty to reduce these risks. With hearing loss being one of the greatest on the job hazards, OSHA should be on your side when it comes to prevention and protection. The bottom line is to avoid occupational hearing hazards

Visit Us at Hearing Group

Are you experiencing changes in your hearing? Schedule a hearing test with us at Hearing Group and take the first step toward bettering your hearing health.

Jesse Hidalgo, BC-HIS

Jesse is Board Certified in Hearing Instruments and has built over 25 practices during his business career starting in 1998. Using his training in Hearing Instrument Sciences he has helped thousands of patients across those practices hear better.
Published: May 25, 2018

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