Let’s Hear it for Keeping Workers’ Hearing Safe

Your office might be quiet, but more than 22 million workers are exposed to noise levels every year that can damage their hearing or cause permanent hearing loss. They might be construction workers, machinists, or on the factory line. They might also be musicians or pilots, or from any number of professions. Damage occurs when loud noise damages the sensitive nerve endings in the ear. Repeated exposure deadens more nerves, causing greater loss. These nerves do not regenerate so hearing loss is permanent and cannot be corrected by surgery or medicine. Shorter term exposure can cause tinnitus, or a ringing in the ears. Tinnitus might be temporary or may become a permanent, debilitating condition.

OSHA sets strict exposure limits for noise in the workplace (find out more here) and PPE requirements, but workers are still suffering. The CDC estimates that $242 million is spent yearly in hearing-loss related disability claims, and businesses are fined more than $1.5 million annually for not protecting workers’ hearing. The financial cost is only part of the story. Hearing loss can be devastating for workers and their families. It can impede communication, increase potential for accidents, and cause grave emotional distress.

NIOSH and OSHA want to solve this preventable problem. They are encouraging businesses, inventors, and entrepreneurs to join their new campaign, “Hear and Now: The Noise Safety Challenge.” If you have innovative and creative ideas to share, they want to hear from you. Find out more here.