Protect Against Job-Site Hearing Loss
Restoration and construction job sites can be dangerous. Surprisingly, one of the most common job-site related injuries is occupational noise induced hearing loss. The equipment used on- site is extremely loud and over 30 million U.S. workers per year are exposed to noise levels that are high enough to cause irreversible hearing loss. Hearing loss can occur when a person is subjected to short but loud, intense noises as well as extended exposure to noise at a lower level. When a person has extended exposures to loud noises, sometimes the effects are so incremental that they may not even realize that they are being affected.
High decibel noises damage the inner ear, the delicate structure that converts sound vibrations into nerve impulses that the brain decodes. When the inner ear is damaged, you can have a decreased ability to hear and can eventually become deaf. OSHA guidelines for exposure to loud noise vary on a sliding scale depending on the severity. Exposure should be limited to 8 hours at 90 decibels, all the way down to 1 hour at 105 decibels, and 15 minutes or less at 115 decibels. For comparison, an average rock concert is around 110 decibels, while jet engines and jackhammers are about 120 decibels.
The good news is that hearing loss is preventable. Occupational noise induced hearing loss can be minimized by rotating workers on and off noisy tasks to limit the amount of time they are exposed to loud noises, or by using equipment with lower decibel ratings. The most important preventive measure is the use of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). This includes earplugs and earmuffs, which provide a barrier between the noise and the inner ear.