Can Loud Noise at Work Affect My Health?
Millions of people go to work every day unaware of the health hazards they are exposed to. When most people think of workplace hazards, they imagine heavy machinery, dangerous lifting, or some kind of physical damage to the bones, muscles, or soft tissue. However, one critical health risk that people unknowingly expose themselves to at work is occupational hearing loss. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, 32 million workers are exposed to loud noises at work or ototoxic chemicals every year, accounting for 24% of hearing loss among U.S. workers.
In this blog, we discuss how loud noise at work can affect your health in other ways, as well as some signs to look out for that may be an indicator of hearing loss.
It should come as no surprise that working around loud, heavy machinery is a hazard to your hearing. Construction equipment noises and metal grinding on metal are fairly obvious examples of hazardous workplace noises. There are more dangers to be aware of than loud noises, however. Many people are unaware of ototoxic chemicals and the dangers of the damage they can cause. Ototoxic chemicals are specific chemicals or solvents that are known to be toxic to our biological hearing systems.
Some common examples of ototoxic chemicals include:
- Noxious gases like carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide
- Metals such as tin, lead, and mercury
- Solvents such as styrene, trichloroethylene, and toluene
- Some pharmaceuticals such as antineoplastic agents
Be Aware of Noise Levels at Work
For people who are accustomed to working in construction or other environments that are typically noisy, it can be easy for the dangers to go unnoticed. If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone who is only 3 feet away, the noise levels may be above 85 decibels. According to OSHA standards, a hearing conservation program must be implemented by employers if noise levels meet or exceed 85 decibels averaged over an 8 time-weighted hour period. The key takeaway of this phrase is “averaged”, as it does not mean you must be exposed to 8 hours of continuous loud noise.
Rather, if you are exposed to two hours of noise exceeding 100 decibels (comparable to a motorcycle engine firing at close range) in an otherwise quiet work environment, you still will have met the 8-hour limit.
The time limits for loud noises are as follows:
- 90 decibels – 8 hours of exposure
- 92 decibels – 6 hours of exposure
- 95 decibels – 3 hours of exposure
- 100 decibels – 2 hours of exposure
- 102 decibels – 1.5 hours of exposure
- 105 decibels – 1 hour of exposure
- 110 decibels – <15 minutes of exposure
Additionally, it’s important to be aware of the warning signs of hearing damage.
Some symptoms to look out for when you work in a noisy environment include:
- Hearing ringing or humming in your ears when you leave work
- Having to shout to speak to coworkers who are an arms-length away
- Experiencing a temporary loss of hearing after leaving work
Additional Health Hazards
Noisy workplaces pose more risks to your health than just hearing loss, however. According to a study conducted by the University of British Columbia and published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, people who work in noisy environments have a higher risk of chest pain, heart attacks, heart disease, and high blood pressure due to the psychological stress of working in a loud environment. In fact, according to the study’s findings, those who were exposed to loud noise at work were almost twice as likely to have above-normal diastolic blood pressure, which is linked to hypertension and other cardiac problems.
Contact a Louisiana Workers’ Comp Lawyer Today!
Hearing loss is a serious matter and can pose serious risks to your health when exposed over long periods of time. You shouldn’t have to worry about your finances while you recover from a workplace injury such as hearing damage, so let us help you. We have the experience needed to fight these insurance companies in court, and we want you to receive the compensation you deserve.
For expert workers’ compensation support in Louisiana, contact Lunsford, Baskin, and Priebe, PLLC. Our attorneys specialize in workers’ compensation, and we have years of experience helping Louisianans receive the workers’ compensation they deserved. Call our office at 504-302-4131, or schedule a free case evaluation by clicking here.