When you think about workplace injuries, hearing loss likely is not the first thing that comes into your mind. However, California Healthline reports that hearing loss represents the nation’s number one on-the-job injury according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hearing loss accounts for upwards of $242 million each year in workers’ compensation payouts for temporary or permanent disability.
As you might expect, constant exposure to excessive noise levels while at work represents the top cause of workplace-induced hearing loss. While virtually any job can expose you to occasional high noise levels, you face particularly high risk of more-or-less constant hazardous noise levels if you work as one of the following:
- Construction worker
- Ambulance driver or EMT
- Manufacturer or factory worker
- Airline crew member
- Lawn care worker
Surprisingly, even such seemingly benign jobs as farmer, dentist and physical education teacher pose a substantial risk of hearing loss.
“Acceptable” noise levels
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that your job should not consistently expose you to noises louder than 85 decibels. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration increases this level to 90 dB for construction workers.
Real noise levels
Unfortunately, all of the following emit noise levels in excess of these recommendations, some substantially so:
- Table saw: 93 dB
- Chainsaw: 106-115 dB
- Jet plane: 120 dB
- Electric drill: 125-130 dB
- Siren: 120-140 dB
- Jackhammer: 130 dB
Keep in mind that a noise of 120+ dB can cause you immediate ear pain and injury.
Your wisest strategy if your job requires you to work in an excessively noisy environment is to wear ear plugs or other protective devices.