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Protecting Your Ears and Hearing on the Job

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month, so it’s the perfect time to think about how you can protect and improve your hearing. One thing you can do is figure out how to protect your hearing at work.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 22 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to dangerous noise levels on the job each year. Since most of us will spend about one-third of our lives at work, it’s important to understand if you’re at risk and make the necessary changes to reduce your chances of losing your hearing.

Protect against loud noises

If your job involves machinery, power tools, vehicles, or any other equipment that exceeds 85 decibels (dB), you may be exposed to excessive noise levels each day. If that’s the case, your employer is legally required to provide hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs. But you can take it a step further and advocate for other hearing protections. Examples include convincing your employer to purchase tools with lower noise levels, installing sound barriers between heavy machinery and work stations where possible, and creating designated quiet spaces for employees to recharge during their breaks.

Avoid loud music

The risk of developing hearing loss at work is present even in an office setting, especially if you listen to music through earbuds or headphones while you work. In fact, the use of these devices is one of the reasons hearing loss is on the rise among young people. Limiting the volume and length of time you listen to 60 percent volume for an hour and half or less per day can help. If you find your office is still too distracting, then you can advocate for your employer to make some hearing-friendly changes, like eliminating open-concept floorplans that contribute to noise levels or installing sound-absorbing panels on the walls.

Get your hearing tested

If you believe you’ve been exposed to unsafe noise levels at work, or otherwise think you may have hearing loss, it’s important to meet with a hearing care professional (HCP) who can evaluate your hearing. The HCP can determine if you have hearing loss and recommend the best hearing aids for your unique needs and lifestyle. They can also provide additional tips on what you can do to protect yourself from further hearing damage at work and in your everyday life.

Creating a hearing-friendly workplace

Your sense of hearing can be critical to successful performance at work, so it’s important to find out if your job or working habits may be putting your hearing in danger. By identifying any potential factors and working with your employer to minimize those risks, you can help protect and maintain your hearing. And by advocating for greater hearing safety, you can help your colleagues and future employees of your company protect their hearing as well.