Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now? The Impacts of Hearing Loss

Reducing noise related injuries ...

"Though it's one of the most common workplace injuries, noise-induced hearing loss also is one of the most overlooked. Employees and employers who don't pay attention to the importance of hearing protection potentially could lose much more than just their hearing.

As a hearing conservationist, National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) President Theresa Schulz has heard more than her share of heartbreaking stories from workers suffering from hearing loss. But nothing prepared her for the compelling story she heard during a presentation at an annual NHCA conference almost a decade ago.

The presenter was a former construction worker in his mid-forties who had significant hearing loss. He started working in construction in his teens, often using jackhammers without wearing hearing protection. He explained during the presentation that a few years ago his sister, with whom he had a strained relationship, was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer.

As she was dying in the hospital, the two tried to mend the rifts in their relationship. She tried to tell him something, but because she was surrounded by the buzzing sounds of medical equipment, he wasn’t able to hear what she was trying to say.

According to Schulz, the presenter told the audience that not hearing her last words haunts him. “When people tell me you just hear what you want to hear, it makes me angry, because I never wanted to hear anything more than that in my whole life,” Schulz recalls him saying.

Examples like this point to how devastating hearing loss can be for a worker, not just because it impacts his or her actual ability to hear, but also because it can affect personal and emotional well-being.

While noise exposure is a pervasive problem in the workplace – it is estimated that the number of workers who suffer from noise-induced hearing loss is in the tens of millions – it is entirely preventable.

Twenty years ago, OSHA implemented detailed noise exposure regulations (29 CFR 1919.95) and since then, many employers and safety professionals diligently have monitored noise levels at work sites, posted warning signs, purchased earplugs and routinely testing employees’ hearing. Yet noise-induced hearing loss continues to occur at an alarming rate."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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