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Work-Related Hearing Loss

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey, one in four adults living in the United States has hearing damage, even though they may report that they have good or excellent hearing. For many of these participants tested by the CDC, they had started to lose their hearing as early as the age of 20. Roughly one in five (about 19%) of young adults between the ages of 20 and 29 were found to have some hearing loss while more than 27% of adults between the ages of 50-59 had hearing damage. Of those that were tested, it was most common that those suffering from hearing loss were men and were older than 40.

Hearing Loss can Lead to Other Disorders and Chronic Health Issues

Hearing loss adversely affects more than just your ability to hear. It was found that those with hearing loss often have chronic health conditions due to their hearing loss and many of those suffering from hearing loss have disorders like anxiety, depression, and stress. Furthermore, chronic noise exposure is associated with heart disease and high blood pressure, among other issues.

Work-Related Exposure to Hazardous Noise and Ototoxic Chemicals

Though a significant number of people have hearing loss and damage associated with everyday noises, like the blaring from a leaf blower or the music at concerts, roughly 22 million workers annually are exposed to hazardous noises at work and roughly 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to chemicals (ototoxic chemicals) that can have adverse affects on ears and hearing. These chemicals are found in heavy metals like mercury and lead, asphyxiants like carbon monoxide, and organic solvents like styrene. These workers are being exposed to toxins and noises that have the effect of causing significant hearing loss, even though there are standards and regulations in place that try to limit exposure of workers to occupational noises.

National Regulations and Standards to Protect Employees

First and foremost the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established Recommended Exposure Limits (REL) which determine the range of safe decibels that a worker can be exposed to over an eight-hour time period. The REL for noise is roughly 85 decibels on average and where a worker is exposed to 85 decibels (or more) for over eight hours, it is considered hazardous. OSHA has also set specific, legal standards on noise exposure for workers in the workplace. OSHA, which also has its own range based on a worker’s time weighted average throughout an average eight-hour day, dictates that the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 decibels. With the NIOSH and OSHA limitations, it is estimated that a worker that is exposed to 85 or 90 decibels over an eight-hour day has reached his or her daily noise allotment and anything above and beyond that will lead to significant hearing damage.

Employer Responsibilities to Employees

Ultimately, it is on the employer to put into an effect some sort of institutional policy on workplace exposure to noise pollution. Whenever workers are placed into a situation where there will be loud noises, employers are required to put into place standards that would eliminate the noise (if possible), provide equipment and tools that would dampen the noise and/or help limit exposure of the worker to the noise, or spend more money to buy quieter equipment, find a way to control the noise hazard through isolating people from being exposed to the noise if possible, limit the duration and time that a worker may be exposed to loud noise, and finally, provide personal protective equipment like earmuffs and protectors to keep workers safe.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If your employer is not following the safety standards and requirements set up by occupational regulators, like OSHA, and as a result, you have suffered hearing loss or injury, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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