How Your Career Choice Could Cost You Your Hearing

Construction worker wearing earplugs

While evaluating the multiple factors that go into your career choice, we bet that your long-range hearing health is pretty low on the priority list—if it’s there at all. We understand.

And although we don’t think that your ability to hear in the future should govern your career choice, we do think you should be knowledgeable of the risk—so that you can make use of proper hearing protection and conform to the best practices to conserve your hearing.

As stated by the CDC, occupational hearing loss is one of the most prevalent occupational health problems in the United States. Twenty-two million workers are exposed to damaging noise levels on the job, and a projected $242 million is expended annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss.

So this isn’t a minimal concern; the personal and social consequences are substantial.

If you opt to pursue one of the following eight careers—or currently work in one—take additional safety measures to look after your hearing.

Below are 8 of the loudest industries.

1. Military – Virtually all firearms can deliver 140 decibels (dB) of noise. This is substantially above the safety threshold of 85 dB, and has the potential to generate instant and irreversible hearing damage. Explosions and other sounds of combat add to the risk. This is why hearing loss and other hearing problems constitute the most widespread injuries for veterans.

2. Music – Live shows can reach over 110 decibels, subjecting performers to hours of continually damaging noise. That explains why research has shown that musicians are four times more likely to experience noise-induced hearing loss—and 57 percent more likely to suffer tinnitus—than other people.

3. Manufacturing – As reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hearing loss is the most regularly documented work-related condition in manufacturing. Manufacturing machinery can reach decibel levels of well above 100.

4. Carpentry – Much like manufacturing, carpenters use machinery that can reach damaging decibel levels. A power saw alone can reach 110 dB.

5. Aviation – A jet take-off at 25 meters registers at approximately 140-150 decibels. The decibel level decreases as distance increases, but pilots and airport employees should protect against the noise.

6. Emergency Response – Ambulance and fire engine sirens can emit decibel levels of over 130. In fact, a group of firefighters has recently taken legal action against a siren manufacturer after suffering from hearing loss on the job.

7. Farming – Some tractors and agricultural equipment can reach well over 100 decibels. Farm workers are encouraged to keep machinery running smoothly, to take periodic breaks from the noise, and to wear hearing protection.

8. Racing – The sound of a single race car can reach over 120 decibels, and a race in full swing can reach 140. Participants, fans, and workers at racing events are all at risk for developing hearing loss.

Bear in mind, extended exposure to any noise above 85 decibels heightens your risk for developing hearing loss. If you end up in a high-volume profession, take these three precautions (if you can’t stay away from the source of the noise):

  1. Increase your distance from the sound source when feasible
  2. Take occasional rest breaks from the sound to limit time of exposure
  3. Use custom earplugs to limit volume

Taking these three simple steps (particularly # 3) will permit you to pursue the career of your choosing without having to forfeit your ability to hear in the future—because wearing earplugs now beats wearing hearing aids later.

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