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How Occupational Noise Exposure Causes Hearing Loss

Written by

Jeanne Graulich
Jeanne Graulich
Jeanne Graulich, MA, CCC-A is an audiologist on staff to guide your hearing aid journey in a safe and practical way. Jeanne brings over 30 years of experience fitting hearing aids, specializing in fittings with adults. Her passion for improving communication and overall quality of life shines through in every interaction.

Occupational noise exposure occurs when a worker is exposed to loud noise or ototoxic chemicals causing a hearing loss.  Examples of excessively loud sounds are a jackhammer, factory, sports arena, bar, or sirens.  Working with solvents, metals, or taking specific medications can cause a worker to be more susceptible to the effects of loud noise.  Each year approximately 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels while 10 million are exposed to dangerous solvents.

OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Association, has specific guidelines for a time exposed to loud sounds. In an environment of 85 dB an 8-hour workday is permitted, 88 dB for 4 hours, 91 dB for 2 hours, and 94 dB for 1 hour.  Hearing conservation programs are designed to identify at-risk workers, evaluate hearing regularly and provide hearing protection.  

Noise-induced hearing loss causes a high-frequency hearing loss that can be initially temporary but result in permanent loss.  Tinnitus, noises in the head without outside sound, is prevalent with noise-induced hearing loss.