Occupational Hearing Loss


Noise is not a new hazard. It has been a constant threat since the industrial revolution. Too much noise exposure may cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a temporary ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems usually go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noise. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent, incurable hearing loss or tinnitus. NIOSH recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace whenever possible and using hearing protectors in those situations where dangerous noise exposures have not yet been controlled or eliminated.

Hearing loss

Hearing loss is a decrease in the ability to perceive sounds. In adults, hearing loss can be partial or total, sudden or gradual, temporary or permanent. It can affect one ear or both. Currently in the United States, 28 million people over age 3 have some form of hearing loss. The condition affects approximately 3% of all adult men and women. In general, the risk of hearing loss increases with age. Between 24% and 40% of adults over age 65 have difficulty hearing. Thirty percent of people over age 85 are deaf in at least one ear. Sound enters the ear and strikes the eardrum (tympanic membrane). This causes the eardrum to vibrate. The eardrum's vibrations are amplified through the middle ear by three tiny bones. Inside the ear, the vibrations are transformed into nerve impulses. These nerve impulses travel to the brain, where they are interpreted as sounds. Because the outer ear and middle ear transmit (or conduct) sound, any injury to this part of the hearing pathway is called conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss is injury to the inner ear, eighth cranial nerve and brain, which all deal with the production, transmission and interpretation of nerve impulses.

Preventing aids from occupational hearing loss

One can prevent him from the hearing loss by wearing a protective earplug or an earmuff if one is often exposed to loud noise at work or during recreational activities. To help protect workers, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration has developed regulations governing noise exposure on the job. One should also never put cotton swabs or other foreign objects in their ears. One must always wear a seatbelt while driving, and also a protective helmet while riding a bicycle. One must be informed of the possible side effects of the prescribed and non-prescribed medications.

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