Risks of Occupational hearing loss in teachers in form of noise-induced hearing loss have been a long-time concern of health professionals.
Research on this condition has focused mostly on factory and manufacturing workers, however, many teachers are exposed to classroom noise which is equally dangerous.
Read More: About Hearing Loss >
Table of Contents
- Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and how it affects teachers well-being and health
- Teachers and their exposure to exceedingly loud noises
- Protection from high loud noises at the workplace
- Hearing Loss Workers Compensation Benefits
Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss and how it affects teachers well-being and health
Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss, in other words – NIHL, develops gradually over time and is a function of continuous or intermittent noise exposure.
This is in contrast to occupational acoustic trauma which is characterized by a sudden change in hearing as a result of a single exposure to a sudden burst of sound, such as an explosive blast.
Hearing loss is affecting people at a younger and younger age, causing undue stress and shortening the working lives of numerous Americans.
These professionals frequently complain of hearing loss, vestibular conditions, tinnitus, and extra-auditory symptoms such as irritability, sleeping difficulties, digestive problems, behavioral disorders, concentration difficulties, and others.
How can I know that I have NIHIL (Noise-Induced Hearing Loss)?
- Speech and other sounds are muffled.
- You have difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds (alarm clock, birds tweeting, etc.).
- You often ask others to speak more loudly, more slowly, or to repeat what they said.
- Turning up the volume of the television or radio.
- Ringing in the ears (Tinnitus).
- Difficulty understanding conversations when you are in a noisy place.
- Difficulty understanding speech over the phone.
- Trouble distinguishing speech consonants(letters “s” and “f”, between “p” and “t”, or between “sh” and “th” in speech)
Teachers and their exposure to exceedingly loud noises
Teachers do have an exceedingly high level of exposure to loud noises, mainly those that come from working with children.
Many of us can relate and imagine the noise level that just a few kids can produce, and now try to imagine if you had a revolving group of 25 children crowded into one room of your house.
EPIC’s Hearing Healthcare research (2015;) showed that 15% of teachers reported a diagnosed hearing loss, compared to 12%
of workers nationwide. They also found teachers between the ages of 18 and 44 reported a higher rate of diagnosed hearing problems (26%) than the national average (17%).
That 9 percent difference is evidence that a teacher’s work environment is a major contributing factor to their hearing difficulties.
Study of Occupational hearing loss connected to the classroom noise
The results of the study done by Regina Helena Garcia Martins; Elaine Lara Mendes Tavares; Arlindo C. Lima Neto; Marisa P. Fioravanti (2007;), show that many classrooms have average noise levels exceeding the recommended maximum 85 decibels (dB).
Read More: What professions can cause hearing loss? >
It’s damaging a teacher’s hearing over the course of an eight-hour workday, and a quarter of all teachers who underwent audiometric testing showed some degree of measurable hearing loss.
Teachers altered hearing abilities are due to:
- Classroom noise levels – While sound levels will vary from classroom to classroom, the rooms involved in the study averaged 59.8 dB to 89 dB. The acceptable noise level for industry workers, according to OSHA, is 85 dB.
- Workplace issues – Teachers are in a precarious position when it comes to protecting their ears. Unlike construction workers, they cannot opt for earplugs in a noisy work environment, and small children may not easily adhere to volume standards.
- Tinnitus – 65t of teachers suffered some kind of auditory complaint – 1/3 reported tinnitus and vertigo symptoms in addition to hearing loss.
- Long workdays – Children are also exposed to loud noise levels in the classroom, but they are given more breaks in the course of the day. A crowded classroom can generate significant noise levels, and many teachers work for six to ten hours while exposed to non-stop classroom noise.
Protection and treatment of teachers from loud noises
Teachers are in many ways essential workers because they shape our children’s future. But, unfortunately, children and schools are loud. Sometimes too loud.
Hearing loss amongst teachers can begin at a much younger age than other diagnosed occupational noise-induced hearing loss. Today, even teachers under 40 years of age report a higher rate of difficulty hearing than that of other professionals, which is a very big problem.
Music teachers are amongst the most vulnerable to early hearing loss. Being exposed to the noises of hundreds of children “playing” the instruments can cause much more damage than just a headache. Because of that, teachers are encouraged to seek regular hearing checks, starting much earlier than most other professionals.
More than half of the teachers who suspected but never treated their hearing loss admitted to asking people to frequently repeat
One-third of them frequently misunderstood what was said and one-fourth reported feeling stressed or tired from the strain of listening or talking over an extended period of time.
Issues with tests
Many teachers that report difficulty hearing to confess to putting off getting tested. They often brush off hearing difficulties in the classroom environment.
A concerning issue is why these teachers have not visited a hearing health practitioner to have their hearing assessed, and the potential explanation is connected to two factors:
- The first factor is that more than half of teachers who were surveyed reported that they would be concerned if their employer suspected them of having hearing loss.
- Another factor could be the cost of hearing devices. Since only 19% of teachers were offered hearing insurance from their employers, the cost of hearing aids or check-ups might not be covered under their health insurance plan.
The fact is that hundreds of teachers across the country could greatly benefit from the use of hearing aids, many of which are invisible and can be adjusted to the exact hearing situation the user is in.
Sadly, delaying getting their hearing tested can cause further strain on teachers. In an already stressful environment, delaying or avoiding treatment can affect performance in the classroom and lead to fatigue or more significant health problems.
Read More: How to prevent Hearing Loss? >
Hearing Loss Workers Compensation Benefits
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.