Occupational hearing loss & excessive noise in the workplace
Learn about workplace hearing loss compensation from top Atlanta work injury lawyers
Hearing is one of the five senses that help us make sense of our world and communicate with the people we love. Unfortunately, because hearing loss often happens gradually over a long period of time, many workers aren’t fully aware that they’re slowly losing their ability to hear every day in the workplace.
What’s worse, in most cases hearing loss isn’t treatable — meaning it can become a permanent disability that seriously limits a person’s ability to work and provide for their family for the rest of their lives.
If you believe you’re experiencing hearing loss at work, then you’re probably stressed and worried about your career and your future. At Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys, our experienced Atlanta attorneys help hardworking Georgians like you across our state by fighting to secure the full workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related accident, injury or condition that results in loss of hearing.
Don’t take your employer at their word if they say your workplace injury isn’t covered.
Contact us today for your free consultation.
What is excessive noise?
Noise is considered excessive and hazardous once it reaches 85 decibels (dB). For comparison, just sitting in your living room at home exposes a person to roughly 42 dB, and a quiet conversation between two people would register perhaps 62 to 65 dB. The inside of an automobile traveling on the highway at 70 mph registers between 70 and 76 dB, while semi-tractor trailers hit 78 to 89 dB.
On the excessive end of hearing loss, the following events register at the high end of the spectrum:
- Standing next to the space shuttle during a launch = 165 dB
- NHRA Top Fuel dragster = 155 dB
- Gunfire = 145 dB
- Professional firework display (at burst point) = 145 dB
- Rock concert = 135 dB
- Jackhammer = 130 dB
- Jet plane taking off, fire truck siren, chainsaw = 120 dB
- Riding lawn mower = 110 dB
- Leaf blower or tractor = 100 to 106 dB
- Mobile device/MP3 player volume maxed = 105 dB
Continuous sounds above 120 decibels can be painful, with pain also being registered for the short impulse of gunfire, a firecracker or a shotgun going off at 140-150 dB.
Signs & symptoms of hearing loss
One of the tell-tale signs of hearing loss is difficulty understanding conversations while in a crowd or amidst other background noise. Others might also consider the need to turn televisions or radios louder or asking other people to speak more slowly or loudly as additional signs of hearing loss. Other symptoms can include ringing in the ears when it’s quiet (like sitting in a library or trying to fall asleep) — or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a sensitivity to sound.
Here are a few warning signs that excessive noise may be a problem in your workplace:
You hear ringing or humming in your ears at the end of your shift when you leave work.
You have to shout to be heard by a coworker an arm’s length away.
You experience temporary hearing loss when leaving work.
Common causes of hearing loss at work
Common causes of occupational hearing loss include short exposure to incredibly loud noises, exposure to noise that’s considered loud and hazardous for hours on end, and exposure to ototoxic chemicals. Hearing loss due to ototoxic chemicals includes exposure to pharmaceuticals (medications that are known to damage hearing), nitriles, solvents and asphyxiants (hydrogen cyanide, carbon monoxide). Also on that list are metals and compounds such as lead, mercury and tin.
Research shows that a select few industries have the biggest problem when it comes to occupational hearing loss. The most common industries that lead to hearing loss at work include:
- Transportation/trucking/aircraft personnel
Carpentry and the construction industry, especially, pose a danger to workers’ hearing because of frequently being around loud machinery and tools on the jobsite that exceed the recommended safe decibel level.
In particular, extended exposure without protection to the loud noise emitted by hammer drills, chain saws, chop saws and miter saws can lead to occupational hearing loss.
Types of hearing loss
Gradual hearing loss is a common aspect of aging, which affects about 1 in 3 Americans after the age of 65, and goes up to 1 in 2 for those older than 75. However, occupational noise exposure brings on the “aging of the ears” much faster.
Work-related hearing loss primarily arises in two different ways. It can be caused due to exposure to loud noises such as a fire truck siren or machinery, or from physical trauma like a blow to the head, ear or pressure waves that rupture the eardrum (such as a blast of air).
Types of injuries covered by Georgia workers’ compensation claims
Occupational hearing loss statistics
Across the United States, the scope of occupational noise exposure is staggering. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) report that about 22 million workers are subjected to hazardous levels of noise at work. A further 30 million are exposed to various types of chemicals, some contained in medications (ototoxic), which are harmful to the ear and can impact their ability to hear.
Hearing loss is responsible for 8% of the working population’s tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears) and a further 4% has both tinnitus and hearing difficulties. Roughly 12% of the U.S. working population suffers from hearing difficulty — of that 12%, a quarter is caused by occupational exposures. Hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition plaguing adults, after hypertension and arthritis.
Excessive noise safety & hearing loss prevention tips
Occupational Hearing Loss (OHL) is sometimes brushed off as simply a part of the job, but it doesn’t have to be. Hearing loss is preventable. Protecting your hearing now can save you a lot of trouble (and lost conversations) in the future — all that’s needed is a little foresight and protection.
OSHA standards say that a person can safely be exposed to 85 decibels over an 8 hour period; they even allow for 90 decibels over an 8 hour period. Employers are required by law to enact proper noise protection for workers once these noise thresholds are exceeded.
By implementing some simple controls (as recommended by OSHA) to reduce or eliminate excessive noise, this can be the first line of defense against occupational hearing loss.
Modifying or replacing loud equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at the worker’s ear. This can include choosing low-noise tools and machinery, maintaining and lubricating machinery and equipment, placing a barrier between the noise source and employees, and enclosing the source of the loud noise.
Implement changes in the workplace that reduce or eliminate workers’ exposure to loud noise. This can include operating noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed, limiting the amount of time a person spends at a noisy source, providing quiet areas where workers can get temporary relief from loud noise sources, and controlling unsafe noise exposure through distance by increasing the distance between the noise source and the worker. Properly training employees about the importance of hearing loss prevention is another best practice.
Preventing hearing loss isn’t only the employer’s responsibility; it’s also important for workers to take care of their own health and safety. When necessary, hearing protection devices (HPDs), such as earmuffs and plugs, should be easily accessible and worn to control exposure to noise. Throw in a pair of foam earplugs, slip on a pair of noise-canceling headphones or some noise-reducing earmuffs before firing up the table saw, jackhammer or other machinery.
Workers’ compensation for hearing loss at work
Some states require people who have suffered occupational hearing loss to wait up to 3 months from the date that he or she was exposed to excessive noise before he or she can file a workers’ compensation claim. The maximum payout for a disability is ⅔ the workers’ average weekly wage for life.
If you choose to request compensation for extensive hearing loss that happened at work, you can file a workers’ compensation claim under Georgia law. If your employer or their insurance company denies or reduces your benefits, it’s time to contact an experienced work injury attorney at Gerber & Holder Attorney At Law who can assist in guiding you through the intricacies of the workers’ compensation system.
Our record of winning accident cases in Georgia speaks for itself:
Contact our Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyers today
Hearing loss isn’t reversible. Once it’s gone, there’s no special surgery or magic pill that can restore one’s hearing. But there are steps doctors and specialists can take today to help you slow down the effects of hearing loss if you act quickly.
If you believe you’ve suffered irreversible occupational hearing loss in the workplace, contact our Atlanta attorneys today to learn more about your legal options and workers’ compensation. We are national leaders in workers’ compensation litigation with over 75 years of experience. Best of all, you don’t have to pay us a penny unless we win your case, so there’s no cost to learning about your rights.