Your hearing is precious. Hearing loss from chronic exposure to loud noise can cause permanent hearing impairment or short-term discomfort, such as tinnitus, or ringing in your ears, and stress from listening to loud noises. It can happen at home or work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA is a powerful federal organization that works to reduce workplace hearing loss and provide useful information so you can protect your hearing.
Hearing Loss at Home and at Work
At home, listening to loud music is a major cause of hearing loss from chronic noise exposure. People also choose to expose themselves to loud noises when they go to recreational facilities, such as indoor firing ranges, arcades and stock car races. In the workplace, loud noise can come from heavy machinery and power tools. Individuals in construction, transportation, agriculture and manufacturing industries are likely to work in settings with dangerous noise levels for hours each day.
OSHA and Employee Rights
OSHA’s mission is to reduce worker death and injury from occupational accidents and hazardous practices. Hearing loss is the most common work-related health problem in the U.S., and OSHA regulates hearing protection in the workplace. OSHA is responsible for developing and enforcing standards for noise exposure.
OSHA and Employee Protection
OSHA ensures that workers are fully informed about any likely exposure to dangerous noise levels. Also, workers must be allowed to have full access to requirements for protective measures. For example, employers must provide personal protective equipment, or PPE, to guard against loud noises. Earplugs that are made out of plastic, expandable fibers, or rubber and earmuffs are common in loud facilities. Employers are responsible for conducting regular hearing tests for their workers and keeping records of the results.
OSHA’s Role in Enforcement
The administration is responsible for conducting regular workplace inspections in all industries to make sure that they are in accordance with all laws to improve worker health and safety. OSHA responds to worker complaints and investigates workplace incidents. OSHA can fine companies for violations. The best way to prevent hearing loss from chronic noise exposure is to avoid loud noise or take measures to protect yourself if you are exposed to loud noise at your workplace. Be aware of the noise levels that can harm you and know your rights as an employee to be protected from harm. If you suspect that you have hearing loss, get tested so that you can take any necessary steps to prevent further damage.