Workers in any occupation face dangerous situations that can lead to an on-the-job injury. These scenarios can be as wide ranging as a vehicle accident while making a job-related delivery to lung conditions resulting from the inhalation of toxic materials. Unfortunately, hearing loss might develop over time and workers might not realize it’s an issue until too late.
While any environment can be noisy, certain industries are more likely to cause damaged hearing. Manufacturing, mining, construction and carpentry pose a significant risk for occupational hearing loss. If supervisors do not provide workers adequate hearing protection ranging from ear plugs and headphones to noise-cancelling technology, they could suffer from three types of occupational hearing loss:
- Sensorineural: Experts generally use sensorineural to refer to hearing loss that is caused by damage to the nerves. This can come from noise damage, aging, or the aftereffects of a blast or explosion.
- Conductive: Hearing loss that is conductive centers on damage to the outer or middle ear system. This damage can include fluid in the ear, allergies, ruptured eardrum, impacted earwax or result from puncture damage caused by foreign objects.
- Mixed: It is often the case that hearing loss can result from numerous factors. When the loss can be tied to both sensorineural and conductive elements, this is considered “mixed.” Mixed factors can include head trauma, infections and genetic disorders.
Workers in loud industrial settings are more likely to endure the type of noise damage associated with sensorineural hearing loss. Additionally, workers might suffer a loss of equilibrium, balance problems, vertigo or tinnitus.
In addition to traditional noise damage, workers often struggle with exposure to ototoxic materials. Substances that are considered harmful to the hearing are knows as ototoxicants and they include ethylbenzene, carbon disulfide, lead, mercury and carbon monoxide. If you are working in a loud or chemically toxic environment, it is crucial that you take steps to protect your hearing.