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What to know about hearing-loss prevention in the workplace

Did you know that hearing loss is the most common workplace injury to occur in the United States?  Roughly 22 million workers are exposed to high noise levels, often suffering serious injuries to their inner ears and experiencing minor or even complete hearing loss.

Avoiding work-related injuries such as hearing loss takes effort on both the employer and the employee's part.  By pointing out the seven components of a good hearing-loss prevention program, we hope to highlight this fact for our California readers.

Noise exposure monitoring. To avoid potential hearing loss, workers should not be exposed to noise levels of 85 dBA or higher for longer than eight hours at a time.

Noise controls. Because a majority of hearing loss injuries can be avoided, employers are encouraged to find better ways of protecting the hearing of their workers. This can be done using simple protective equipment such as ear plugs to more elaborate systems like acoustic barriers.

Audiometic evaluation. Employers should conduct sound studies to determine decibel levels within workplaces. Knowing the noise level in each work area can help highlight areas where hearing protection or sound barriers may be necessary.

Hearing protection devices. As we mentioned above, exposure to high levels of noise can cause damage to the inner ear. Using protective equipment such as earplugs or other noise cancelling devices can be incredibly beneficial. Employers should make it clear when and where these devices are required.

Motivation and education. By educating employees and motivating them to wear protective equipment, employers can reduce the occurrence of occupational hearing loss.

Record keeping. Employers should keep clear and concise records so as to determine the likelihood of potential injury. This could include yearly hearing tests for employees as well to see if current safety guidelines are eliminating the risk of hearing loss or not.

Program audits. Regular audits should be conducted to make sure that safety programs are up to current regulations and that all employees are in compliance with these guidelines.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention," Accessed Sept. 2, 2014

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