Noisy Work Environments and Hearing Loss

Do you work in a noisy environment? If so, you may be experiencing some hearing loss without even realizing it. A new study from the Harvard Medical Center shows neural damage can continue for months after exposure to noise has ended, resulting in worsening tinnitus and difficulty interpreting speech.

Concerns about hearing protection often relate to occupations in which workers are constantly surrounded by loud machinery and equipment. However, researchers say there are many other work environments which may pose a hearing hazard.

A University of Queensland study showed hearing loss among workers who were exposed to chemicals such as toluene, a solvent found in paints, glues, varnishes and other common products. Frequent exposure to such chemicals resulted in poor performance in detecting sounds and in temporal resolution. Researchers, therefore; say these workers should be included in hearing conservation programs at their worksite and be educated on adverse effects of solvents on the auditory system.

Another study from the University of Sydney found musicians are also exposed to hazardous noise. Musicians can help protect their hearing by practicing in acoustically appropriate environments and using hearing protection such as musician’s earplugs. The specific earplugs are designed to reduce sound more naturally than traditional earplugs.

For more information on ways to prevent hearing loss, check out OSHAcademy course 751 Hearing Conservation Program Management.