Occupational hearing loss occurs when you are exposed to hazardous noise levels or chemicals that damage your hearing while at work. New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reveals that more workers than originally suspected are exposed to noise within the services industry setting, putting them at a heightened risk of developing hearing loss and tinnitus.
Dangers of Occupational Hearing Loss
Exposure to dangerously loud noises can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol. This type of hearing loss commonly occurs with tinnitus, which is associated with depression and cognitive decline.
The highest percentage of occupational hearing loss occurs in the mining, construction and manufacturing sectors.
Service Sector Research
The NIOSH researchers examined audiograms from 1.9 million workers exposed to noise between 2006-2015 across all industries. This included 158,436 workers in the service sector.
The service sector consists of a wide variety of services, including:
- Newspaper, music and software publishing
- Renting and leasing
- Financial transactions
- Legal advice and representation
- Overseeing and managing governmental programs
- Security and surveillance
- Educational training
- Entertainment and recreation
- Accommodations and food service
- Machinery repairing
- Dry cleaning and laundry
The result of their research was published in the International Journal Audiology.
Researchers determined that while the prevalence of hearing loss within the service sector (17%) was similar to that of all industries (16%), there were a number of subsectors that exceeded these numbers.
The highest prevalence of hearing loss at 50% was found in workers in administration of urban planning and community and rural development. Those who worked in solid waste combustion and incinerators has more than double the risk of developing hearing loss.
Subsectors traditionally viewed as low risk for hearing loss development such as custom computer programming services and elementary and secondary schools had higher prevalence and risk of developing hearing loss than previously suspected.
NIOSH recommends removing or replacing occupational noise at the source. When this cannot be done, workplaces should limit how long their employees are exposed and provide them with appropriate hearing protection.
To learn more about protecting your hearing or to schedule an appointment for a hearing test, contact Hearing Services of Santa Barbara.