We spend a significant portion of our lives working. The average worker works at least five days out of the week and at least eight hours of the day, essentially until they retire. Spending so much time at work can increase the risk of sustaining serious work-related injuries or illnesses, especially if workers face exposure to loud noises regularly.
About 22 million workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels at work each year, and though workers can recover workers’ compensation benefits for hearing loss, many might wonder: what can they do to prevent hearing loss?
Maryland law explicitly covers occupational deafness
Occupational deafness or hearing loss is specifically covered under Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation law for covered employees (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment § 9-505). This coverage extends to workers if they suffer from hearing loss after consistent exposure to industrial noise frequencies between 500 hertz and 3,000 hertz.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require employers to have a hearing conservation program, which limits working hours to eight hours if the noise in the workplace measures at 85 decibels or higher. However, many professions face much louder noise exposure than 85 decibels regularly, including:
- Airport ground workers;
- Industrial warehouse workers;
- Factory workers;
- Construction workers; and
- Emergency responders.
It is not always possible to control the noise exposure in these jobs or environments but hearing loss can be devastating for an individual’s career and personal life. So, workers must take steps to preserve their hearing on the job.
What can workers do to protect their hearing?
The biggest risk of hearing loss is that there are rarely warning signs. There is not usually any pain. Some workers might experience ringing in their ears, but this is not always true in every case either.
Without warning signs, individuals must take proactive measures to protect their hearing by:
- Wearing the proper protective gear, such as earplugs or noise-canceling headphones;
- Giving their ears a break during and after work. It can often take roughly 16 hours of quiet to recover from noise exposure during the day; and
- Getting regular hearing tests to catch risks and concerns early.
Even though covered Maryland workers can collect workers’ compensation benefits for occupational hearing loss, workers should still take steps to protect their hearing now.