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Preventing Hearing Loss

Millions of workers are exposed to noise in the workplace every day and when uncontrolled, noise exposure may cause permanent hearing loss. Research demonstrates exposure to certain chemicals, called ototoxicants, may cause hearing loss or balance problems, regardless of noise exposure. Substances including certain pesticides, solvents, and pharmaceuticals that contain ototoxicants can negatively affect how the ear functions, causing hearing loss, and/or affect balance. The risk of hearing loss is increased when workers are exposed to these chemicals while working around elevated noise levels. This combination often results in hearing loss that can be temporary or permanent, depending on the level of noise, the dose of the chemical, and the duration of the exposure. This hearing impairment affects many occupations and industries, from machinists to firefighters.

 

Recommendations:

 

  • Noise levels should be monitored regularly to see where there may be dangers in your workplace. It is important to accurately identify employees exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels averaged over 8 working hours. Employers must monitor employees who meet this criteria and the measurement must include all continuous, intermittent and impulsive noise within an 80 decibel to 130 decibel range.

 

  • When employees are exposed to sound levels at or exceeding the action level (85 dBA TWA), hearing protection devices such as earplugs or earmuffs must be made available. It is key to ensure that the devices fit properly, as the effectiveness is greatly reduced if worn incorrectly. Hearing protection should be selected based on the environment of your facility, the fit and comfort level for each employee and offer the best level of protection.

 

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