Driving a bus is a profession that requires skill, attentiveness, and endurance.
However, this occupation comes with its own set of occupational hazards, one of which is the potential risk of hearing loss.
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The Noisy Environment of Bus Drivers
Certain occupations are expected to be at risk for hearing loss, such as those in the military, concert venue personnel, musicians, air traffic controllers, and construction workers. It may surprise you to discover that heavy-vehicle drivers, such as bus and truck drivers, are also at high risk.
Bus drivers are regularly exposed to a range of noise sources, and high amounts of noise exposure can be caused by the engine’s continual hum, road noise, and passenger bustle.
Modern buses come with a number of mechanical parts, such as air conditioning units and hydraulic doors, which can add to the overall noise level. The combination of these factors creates an environment where bus drivers are subjected to prolonged periods of elevated noise levels, and it potentially leads to the loss of hearing.
Understanding the Impact of Loud Noises on Hearing
The human ear is a fragile organ with delicate components which can be harmed by long-term exposure to loud noises.
The outer ear picks up sound waves from your surroundings and transmits them to the eardrum through the ear canal. The vibration produced by the soundwave when it strikes the eardrum travels via the malleus, incus, and stapes, three small bones in the middle ear.
When this vibration reaches the inner ear’s cochlea, which is packed with fluid, the fluid begins to move. An electrical impulse is produced when the small hair cells lining the cochlea are activated by this movement. The auditory nerve carries this electrical impulse to the brain, where it is processed as sound.
The sensitive hair cells in the cochlea can be harmed or even destroyed when dangerously loud noises are forced through the ear. Since these cells cannot regenerate, the harm and ensuing hearing loss are irreversible. With significant exposure time, any sound over 85 dB, or roughly the volume of highway traffic, can harm these structures.
NIHL (Noise-Induced Hearing Loss) is a slow process that causes permanent hearing loss by repeatedly damaging the hair cells in the inner ear. Bus drivers are susceptible to NIHL because of their frequent exposure to long-term noise, and it can manifest as tinnitus (ear ringing) or trouble hearing speech in noisy settings.
Hearing Loss Among Truck and Bus Drivers: Iranian Study
Between February 2006 and March 2016, the researchers examined data from 65,533 individuals who operated trucks or buses in Isfahan Province.
Participants had to be older than 20 and free of any illnesses aside from musculoskeletal problems or back discomfort in order to be considered for the study. Each subject was a man, and to evaluate their hearing loss, pure tone air and bone condition audiometry were performed.
The findings showed that 26.8% of heavy vehicle drivers had some degree of hearing loss, with 4.4% having it only in their right ear, 7.8% having it only in their left, and 14.6% having it in both of their ears.
Although the subject’s prior employment history, the type of vehicle, or the use of air conditioning were not taken into account in these findings, the findings do show that those who drive professionally have a higher risk of acquiring hearing loss.
Information from a national survey program was used in the study that was published in Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine.
Protective Measures for Avoiding Hearing Loss Among Bus Drivers
It is essential for bus drivers’ general health and professional effectiveness to maintain their hearing.
In the first place, outfitting bus drivers with top-notch noise-canceling headphones may greatly limit their exposure to excessive noise levels while they are working. Second, frequent training sessions should be held to teach drivers the value of using earplugs or earmuffs in noisy situations, such as while doing engine repairs or when driving through congested traffic.
Further safeguarding the hearing of bus drivers can be accomplished by eliminating unneeded noise sources within the vehicle. Last but not least, regular hearing exams can spot any difficulties early on, allowing for fast intervention and the application of the right solutions.
To mitigate the risk of hearing loss, it is essential for bus drivers and employers to prioritize hearing protection.
Here are some effective measures for employers that can be implemented:
- Hearing Conservation Programs: Hearing screenings, training on the risks of noise exposure, and the proper use of hearing protection devices.
- Engineering Controls: Using noise reduction technologies, such as sound insulation materials and quieter engine designs, to minimize noise levels inside the bus cabin.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Providing bus drivers with suitable hearing protection devices, such as earmuffs or earplugs, that effectively attenuate noise.
- Work Schedule and Breaks: Designing work schedules that allow for regular breaks from noisy environments, enabling bus drivers to rest their ears and reduce overall noise exposure.
- Education and Awareness: Educating bus drivers about the importance of hearing protection, raising awareness about the signs and symptoms of hearing loss, and promoting healthy hearing practices both on and off the job.
You’re, or Know Someone Suffering From Hearing Loss Obtained in a Noisy Workplace?
The importance of addressing the risk of hearing loss in bus drivers goes beyond individual well-being. It has implications for the safety and comfort of passengers as well.
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 disease 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.