Employers should go above and beyond the regulatory minimum for workplace hearing protection, the American Tinnitus Association asserts as it recognizes Tinnitus Awareness Week (May 18-24).
“Workplace noise exposure is a growing national health issue that seriously jeopardizes the long-term well-being of workers and the overall productivity of businesses” said Cara James, executive director of the American Tinnitus Association. “Fortunately, this is a crisis that can be averted through simple preventive measures. ATA encourages both employers and employees to take active steps to protect their hearing and minimize the long-term risks of noise exposure.”
The association encourages employers to develop engineering controls to reduce overall noise output and implement administrative procedures to minimize workers’ noise exposure. Doing so will protect workers’ hearing and “bolster the organization’s bottom line by reducing absenteeism and accidents and improving productivity and morale,” the association says.
The association also urges workers to take control of their own hearing health by using appropriate ear and noise protection. Earmuffs, earplugs, canal caps and noise cancellation technology are among the options for reducing noise exposure and damage to the inner ear.
Workers should consult a hearing health professional to find and customize a hearing protection solution that is best-suited to their work needs, the association adds.
According to NIOSH, nearly 30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous workplace noise levels on a regular basis, putting them at risk of tinnitus, hyperacusis, physical and psychological stress and deafness. By one estimate, more than 125,000 workers have suffered permanent hearing loss since 2004.
OSHA has established maximum acceptable limits on both peak volume levels and total time of daily exposure. Workplaces where the daily average volume is 85 decibels or greater are required to maintain a hearing conservation program.
However, each person has their own noise tolerance level, the American Tinnitus Association notes, and a person with tinnitus or hyperacusis might encounter great pain when exposed to volumes much lower than OSHA’s 85-decibel maximum. And exposure to any loud noise –regardless of the duration – can be detrimental to a worker’s ongoing hearing health.
“Cases of work-related tinnitus and hearing loss are on the rise around the country and in almost every industry sector,” James explained. “We will reverse this sobering trend only when both employers and employees prioritize hearing protection and make it part of ‘business as usual.’ Together we can help thousands of workers each year protect their hearing.”
William Shatner on Tinnitus