According to the research Hearing Loss Among Construction Workers Analyses, 58% of older construction workers now have considerable hearing loss, which is typically the result of failing to take the necessary measures when working in high-noise environments.
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Factors Contributing to Hearing Loss in the Construction and Heavy Equipment Industries
Working in construction is a difficult profession that is fraught with danger. Noise-induced hearing loss is one concern that is often overlooked and affects construction workers. Permanent hearing loss is a severe health condition for anyone in any industry to contend with.
Long or repetitive exposure to noises at or above 85dB, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), can induce hearing loss. The shorter the time it takes for Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) to occur, the louder the sound.
The average construction site has a decibel level of 80 dB. to 90 dB. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), around 51% of construction workers have been exposed to dangerous noise, and 31% of those workers do not use hearing protection. Furthermore, around 14% of all construction employees have a hearing impairment.
There are three major types of noise frequencies: broadband noise, impulse noise, and tonal noise.
Types of Noise Frequencies
- Broadband noise (also known as wideband noise) is defined as “noise whose sound energy is dispersed throughout a broad area of the hearing range”. Broadband noise can range from speech frequencies to loud equipment or heavy vehicle frequencies, and it can have random or wide patterns.
- Impulse noise is defined as noise that has abrupt, short increases in dB loudness. This category includes any of the top noise levels in the construction sector, including pneumatic chipping hammers, jackhammers, and hammers. Because they are persistent and loud, these high-decibel impulsive sounds can cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
- Tonal noise (also known as discrete frequency noise) is noise with a single frequency. Tonal sounds are caused by rotating or vibrating blades, fans, motors, or other moving elements. These sounds in construction include the concrete joint cutter, the Skilsaw, and other saws.
Hearing Loss in the Construction and Heavy Equipment Industries: Noise Sources
Construction and building have a complicated mix of noise sources and reverberant settings, which are frequently near together. Hand tools/power tools and specialty plants are particularly significant where operators are in contact with the workpiece – possibly for several hours a day – e.g. carpentry, earthworks, piling, etc.
The most common sources of noise at the workplace are:
- Pumps, drilling, and mixing machines.
- Saws, hammers, files, and other hand tools.
- Drills, power saws, grinders, and nail guns.
- Music – loud music can contribute to the noise environment and duration.
- Heavy machinery – tracked vehicles, engines, and general noise.
- Specialist machinery for drilling, mixing, and air compressors can produce a lot of noise.
Hearing Loss in Construction and Heavy Equipment Use: Safety and Communication
Companies are obligated to develop a Hearing Conservation Program if sound levels surpass 85dB for more than 8 hours, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Hearing Conservation Programs are intended to prevent occupational hearing loss, retain remaining hearing, and equip employees with the necessary hearing protection. Free hearing tests, hearing protection devices, safety instructions, and fit-testing evaluations to verify the efficacy of hearing protection equipment are all possible components of these programs.
Workers with hearing loss may be able to:
- Fail to hear two-way radio emergency messages.
- Feel tired, stressed, or anxious as a result of the greater effort required to listen.
- Develop Tinnitus, leading to hearing ringing, rushing, or other noises.
Construction Workers’ Hearing Loss Symptoms
If you or someone you know is experiencing hearing loss, there are certain warning signals to look for. A ringing in the ears or difficulties hearing someone on the phone might be early warning symptoms. Other danger flags after extended exposure to loud noises include difficulty hearing a mobile phone ring or backup alarms.
When you start hearing ordinary speech as muffled noises, this is one of the most serious indications of hearing loss. Asking individuals to repeat what they’ve said or hearing distorted speech is a strong indication that you should have your hearing examined by a doctor.
There are methods you may do to reduce these problems when working on a construction site. When feasible, use quieter equipment, molded ear plugs, and ear muffs, and stand far away from a source of loud noise. Noise-canceling barriers, such as plywood, can block noise and lessen the risk of hearing loss.
Knowing the many causes of hearing loss and how it can impact you or others while working in construction will allow you to take the appropriate precautions to protect yourself and others from occupational hearing loss.
I Acquired Hearing Loss at the Job, What to Do?
The Workers Compensation Program was established in 1911 to encourage employers to make the workplace safer by requiring safety programs and the use of safety devices.
Since 1911, there have been over 2.5 million workers’ compensation claims filed. Hearing loss workers’ compensation claims now rank #3 in the number of occupational diseases claims filed.
Hearing loss workers’ compensation benefits are largely undiscovered benefits covering hearing health care, which is often uninsured. Many health insurance policies and programs like Medicare do not cover hearing aid purchases but workers’ compensation can. It also pays for the disability of hearing loss just as it does for the loss of eyesight or other injuries.
Aging populations, advances in technology, and greater sensitivity to hearing loss are bringing more attention to financing hearing health care. For the most part, those who qualify for hearing loss workers’ compensation benefits are retired hearing-impaired workers who live on fixed incomes.
Always feel free to ask Johnson Law Offices about the process, the law, or an individual case. The legal, medical, and audio-metric questions that come into play in a hearing loss workers’ compensation claim can be complicated.
The claims require attention to detail mixed with an ability to work well with hearing-impaired retirees and their families, especially spouses, and their hearing health care professionals.