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Researchers Link Occupational Noise Exposure to Accelerated Hearing Loss

Researchers Link Occupational Noise Exposure to Accelerated Hearing Loss

Noise exposure in the workplace is a common risk across a wide spectrum of industries. According to a new study from the Canadian research institute IRSST, those risks don’t just post the threat of immediate injury – occupational noise exposure can also accelerate the loss of hearing that occurs normally with aging.

In their published review, researchers examined over 30 previously released hearing-related studies on both humans and animals. Some of their key findings include:

  • Researchers noted a clear link between exposure to noise and acceleration of the body’s natural hearing loss, a process known as presbycusis. Presbycusis affects roughly a third of adults 65 and older and nearly half of adults 75 and older, and hearing loss associated with the condition is usually most pronounced for high-pitched sounds.
  • While noise exposure can cause temporary hearing changes and shifts in hearing thresholds, those changes are reversible, and the auditory system will begin to recover its hearing capacity once exposure stops.
  • In cases where noise exposure is more severe or prolonged over time, the auditory system’s recovery can be compromised, and individuals can suffer permanent and irreversible hearing changes.
  • In analyzed studies that included medical evaluations, researchers noted individuals exposed to noise displayed damaged ear synapses decades before the gradual changes brought about presbycusis would normally make them apparent. They also reported such damage can be accelerated and magnified by occupational noise exposure.

Understanding Noise Exposure in the Workplace

Noise exposure is a considerable risk in many occupations, with over 22 million U.S. workers exposed to potentially hazardous noise levels at work each year, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). That makes it one of the most common work-related injuries in America, especially in occupations where heavy machinery, noise-enhancing equipment, or certain toxic chemicals are used, including:

  • Manufacturing
  • Construction
  • Carpentry and mining
  • Military
  • Entertainment
  • Agriculture and farming

Harmful noise level exposure in these and other occupations can be caused by:

  • A single incident / short-term exposure involving explosions / sudden, high-decibel noises
  • Exposure to ototoxic chemicals in solvents, metals and compounds, and other substances
  • Recurrent and prolonged exposure to elevated noise levels

Workplace Safety & Worker Injuries

High noise levels are a significant risk to workers, creating the potential for permanent hearing loss (which cannot be corrected surgically or with the use of hearing aids), temporary or partially disabled hearing changes, and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Loud noises can also contribute to workplace accidents by inhibiting the ability of workers to concentrate or communicate when performing a job, causing them to miss audible warning signs, reducing productivity, and placing physical and psychological stress on workers.

Because noise-related injuries can substantially impact a person’s quality of life, independence, and ability to work and earn wages, agencies like OSHA have specific regulations addressing noise and hearing loss in the workplace. These include rules for:

  • Hearing protection / personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Maintaining hearing conservation programs, which include monitoring, testing, training, and recordkeeping requirements
  • Meeting maximum noise level / threshold requirements based on industry / workplace
  • Engineering controls, such as replacing or modifying equipment, making changes to the source of noise or its path of transmission, and isolated or blocking noise sources
  • Administrative controls that reduce worker exposure, including scheduling changes to minimize time near high-level noise sources or using machinery when there are fewer employees on duty

Though the risks of exposure to elevated levels of noise are well known and tightly regulated, OSHA reports U.S. employers paid more than $1.5 million in penalties for failing to protect workers from noise in the past year alone. OSHA also estimates employers spend around $250 million annually for workers’ compensation benefits related to hearing loss and auditory injuries.

How Proven Personal Injury & Workers’ Comp Attorneys Can Help

Whether hearing loss and other injuries or disabilities result from an isolated incident in the workplace or prolonged exposure, injured workers may have the right to seek benefits and recoveries they need to address their medical expenses, lost wages, or their inability to work and earn an income. Securing fair benefits and financial compensation is never guaranteed, however, which is why working with experienced lawyers is so crucially important.

At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., we focus our practice on protecting the rights of the injured. As such, we’re able to help workers and their families navigate the most appropriate pathway to compensation based on their unique case – be it a workers’ compensation claim or civil personal injury lawsuit involving construction accidents, a negligent third party, product liability, premises liability, or other acts of negligence and wrongdoing.

To speak with an award-winning New York City injury attorney about your potential case and options, contact us today. The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. serves clients throughout New York, and is available 24/7 to help.

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