When you’re on the job it’s important to hear everything around you, from your boss giving you an assignment to listening to the equipment you’re operating. However both loud impact-type sounds – such as a jackhammer – or extended time exposed to a sound – like with lawn mowers – can permanently damage your hearing. This month is Better Hearing and Speech Month, and is the perfect time to learn what can damage your hearing and what you can do to protect it. How can sound damage your hearing? Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by damage to the hair cells found in the inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals sent to the brain, according to the American Academy of Audiology. High levels of noise can cause this type of permanent hearing loss, and can contribute to reduced workplace productivity and work-related accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends workplace noise levels be kept below 85 decibels. A jackhammer or stud welder can make noise as loud as 100 dB. It can take as little as one hour a day of repeated exposures to this level of noise to damage your hearing. While construction sites may seem like the obvious workplace for noise exposure, they aren’t the only ones. Anyone who works with firearms, fireworks, and motor vehicles; or at concerts, dance clubs, and sporting events is at risk for hearing loss. For example, a firework explosion 800 feet away can have a noise range from 88 to 128 dB, and noise at a sporting event averages between 80 and 90 dB. How should you protect yourself? Hearing protection should be worn in loud environments. Earmuffs and foam earplugs used in tandem are a great way to block sound. Custom hearing protection can help support hearing when the environment is safe, while blocking sounds that reach a dangerously high decibel level. You should also ask your supervisor if you can build a sound barrier or use quieter equipment if you are in an environment that would permit it, like a construction site. “Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable,” CEENTA Audiologist Heather Morrison, AuD, said. “If you feel your ears are being exposed to high levels of noise, don’t be afraid to address this with your workplace and request hearing protection when warranted.” If you feel your job site is too noisy and your supervisor won’t address your concerns, you can always file a complaint with OSHA. They can measure sound levels to see if noise levels are too high, and you are protected from discrimination or retaliation if you do make a report. Get your hearing checked If you are continuously exposed to loud noise, you should get your hearing checked routinely. CEENTA has audiologists in locations across North and South Carolina who will thoroughly test your hearing and inform you of your current hearing status. The audiologists will review treatment plans based on your hearing, which may include discussion of custom hearing protection and/or hearing aid options. “We at CEENTA are here to help you maintain better hearing health with the recommendation and use of proper hearing protection,” Dr. Morrison said. “With so many options available for custom hearing protection, we are sure to find some earplugs to help you work safely in your environment as well as keep your ears safe from damage.” This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment for a hearing test, call 704-295-3000.