Hearing Loss Is More Prevalent in Service Workers

Millions of people across the United States are exposed to loud noises at work. New research conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates that a large number of those individuals work in the Services industry.

Occupational Noise Exposure Research Bartender mixing up a drink with the drink flying in the air to the next cup

Published in the July issue of International Journal of Audiology, “Prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the services sector” looked to examine the incidence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the Services sector.

Researchers examined the audiograms for 1.9 million workers exposed to noise on the job across all industries between 2006-2015; this included 158,436 Services workers. While they determined that the prevalence of hearing loss within those in Services was close to the prevalence of all industries (17 percent compared to 16 percent, respectively), they found:

  • Many sub-sectors exceeded the prevalence by 10-33 percent, and workers had higher risk for hearing loss
  • Workers in Administration of Urban Planning and Community and Rural Development had the highest prevalence of 50 percent
  • Workers in Solid Waste Combustors and Incinerators had double the risk, the highest of any sub-sector
  • Some sub-sectors that were previously viewed as low-risk for developing hearing loss, including Custom Computer Programming Services and Elementary and Secondary Schools, had higher than expected prevalence and risk

What Is Occupational Hearing Loss?

This classification of hearing loss occurs when workers are exposed to hazardous noises or chemicals that cause damage to their hearing while at work.

Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Anything over 85 dB can cause hearing loss after exposure over an extended period of time.

To combat occupational hearing loss, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. According to OSHA, “These limits are based on a worker’s time weighted average over an 8-hour day. With noise, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dB for all workers for an 8-hour day. The OSHA standard uses a 5 dB exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by 5 dB, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.”

The results of this study confirm that workers in the Services sector are at an elevated risk of hearing loss, and conservation efforts need to be put in place.

To learn more about protecting your hearing at work or to schedule an appointment with an experienced hearing professional, contact San Diego Hearing Center today.

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