While it’s important to separate what you do for a living and your personal life, our jobs often play an important role in our identity. It has been estimated that the average person will spend one-third of their life at work. That’s roughly 90,000 hours at work over your lifetime! It’s ideal to love what you do for work and stay safe day after day. This includes protecting your hearing health. The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) reports that of the 15% of Americans who report some degree of hearing loss, approximately 60 percent are either in the workplace or an educational setting.

Occupational Hearing Health

The average work shift is 8 hours or longer. This is a long time to be exposed to dangerous levels of noise at work. This is in part because the longer we are exposed to a hazardous level of sound, the higher the risk of sustaining a hearing loss. The loudness of sound is measured in decibels and The Occupations Safety and Health Administration, (OSHA) reports that a person can listen to 85 dBA for 8 hours before permanent hearing damage occurs. However, as the decibels rise, the time it takes for the damage occurs decreases rather quickly. For perspective, at 95 dBA it takes a little under an hour for damage to occur and at 105 dBA it takes around 15 minutes!

Protect Your Hearing!

Because of the risk of hearing loss in professional settings, it’s important to anticipate the risk and protect yourself using hearing protection. Earplugs and protective earmuffs can lower the decibels level from between 15 -33 dBA and should be provided to workers at no cost to their own by employers, as mandated by OSHA. Even so, don’t wait for your employers to offer you protection. Know the level of sound in the place you work. You can usually take an average decibel reading using a free decibel app available on most Smartphones. Some surprisingly loud professions include:

 

  • Construction Worker (120 dB)
  • Works in Nightlife (115 dB) …
  • Factory and Farm Worker (105 dB) …
  • Classical Musician (95 dB) …
  • Motorcycle Courier (90 dB) …
  • Nursery Worker or Teacher (85 dB) (while a normal conversation measures around 60 dBA, imagine when multiple conversations are occurring all at once throughout the day?!

Hearing loss and employment

Hearing loss is permanent, but it doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying success at work. While it’s been found that workers with hearing loss are often passed up for raises and promotions due to constant misunderstanding, those who treat their hearing loss are reported to have equal success to those with normal hearing!

Disclosing A Hearing Loss

The first thing to do is be honest with yourself that you have hearing loss. Hearing loss can be difficult to self-diagnose, but just because you aren’t aware of it, doesn’t mean that your employers aren’t noticing. According to the Better Hearing Institute, those with hearing loss make $30,000 less annually than those with treated or normal hearing. However, with regular hearing tests, you can test for hearing loss and seek treatment. Employers in the U.S. are legally obligated to provide an equal-opportunity workplace under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This includes reasonable accommodations such as meeting notes, workplace changes, assistive listening devices, and visual alarms, among many others. When you are aware and open about a hearing loss with your employer, you can get the help you need for continued success in the workplace.

 

Wearing hearing aids at work

Once your hearing loss has been diagnosed you can receive treatment. The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids. These electronic devices sit in or near the ear canal and amplify the sounds you need to hear, as based on your hearing exam. You can hear the rest with your existing hearing ability. This creates an organic listening experience and allows you to perform your job with renewed confidence and reliability.

 

When you are new to hearing aids, remember that it may take time to adjust to them in different settings, including at your workplace. Many people are unaware of their hearing loss for years before it becomes severe enough that it’s noticeable to you and those around them. Over the years, your brain may have not been accustomed to lost sounds. It will take time for your brain to relearn to process these sounds, but after a couple of weeks, they should be fully integrated into your life.

Schedule a Hearing Exam

If you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t wait for it to get worse. Excel in the workplace with hearing aids! The first step is to schedule a hearing exam today!