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Construction noise and hearing loss are related

If you work in construction, whether you're a roofer or a welder, your job may be making you deaf.

Noise-induced hearing loss is a preventable condition, but once it occurs, there's no cure and no readily available treatment. Noise-induced hearing loss causes cellular death inside the ear -- something that even hearing aids often cannot help.

Worse, many construction workers don't realize how much their hearing is at risk. Here are some facts that every construction worker should know:

-- Noise isn't the only factor in work-related hearing loss. Length of exposure is also important. The longer and more often a worker is exposed to unsafe levels of noise, the worse the hearing loss becomes.

-- Studies indicate that only 9 percent of workers who are generally exposed to minimal noise levels (90 decibels or under) experience noise-induced hearing loss by the age of 50. In contrast, 60 percent of those exposed to higher levels of noise (up to 120 decibels) have significant hearing loss by the same age.

-- Construction workers are exposed to higher levels of noise on a regular basis than rock musicians, manufacturing workers and nightclub employees.

An additional problem with hearing loss is that it can happen gradually, and many people don't realize that they're suffering from the problem. It isn't uncommon for someone to report that they have "good" hearing even though auditory testing shows that their hearing is actually quite damaged.

Why aren't construction workers getting better protection for their hearing? There are likely a number of factors involved:

-- Construction workers aren't given enough training on the use of safety equipment designed to protect against noise-induced hearing loss.

-- The real dangers of noise-induced hearing loss are minimized or treated as something of less importance than other safety concerns.

-- Construction workers are afraid to wear some of the noise-cancelling safety gear because they're afraid they'll miss something important, like the sound of a forklift backing up or someone shouting out a danger warning.

-- Employers aren't providing construction workers with the most sophisticated noise-cancelling devices available because of cost. Newer earplugs can block loud ambient noise but still allow someone to carry on a normal conversation without removing them.

If you are suffering from noise-induced hearing loss related to your construction job, you have a right to compensation for your injury. Talk to an attorney today.

Source: OSHA Pocket Guide, "Worker Safety Series: Protecting Yourself from Noise in Construction," accessed June 16, 2017

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