Hearing is one of those things that many people take for granted … until it’s gone.
A Chronic Condition
Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in American adults – following hypertension and arthritis. Hearing loss is even more common than vision trouble.
Approximately 11% of US workers have hearing difficulty, and about 24% of that hearing difficulty is caused by occupational exposures according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Hearing loss can also lead to miscommunication and accidents, potentially harming employees while driving up workers compensation insurance costs.
20 Million in Workforce Affected
There are more than 20 million people in the U.S. workforce currently experiencing hearing loss, and it’s affecting their jobs and costing businesses money. Any worker can suffer work-related hearing loss, but the top industries include construction, carpentry, mining, entertainment, military, and agricultural according to Healthy Hearing.
Impact of Hearing Loss
According to the CDC, Hearing loss can lead to miscommunications and depression. It has also been associated with cognitive decline and heart problems. Hearing loss can affect safety within the workplace, and the Better Hearing Institute found that workers with hearing loss are five times more likely to take sick days due to severe stress.
Epic Hearing Healthcare says, “… when workers have trouble following conversations, misunderstand what is being said, or pretend to hear things that they don’t hear, it can negatively affect the worker’s productivity and the company’s bottom line. Untreated hearing loss affects companies – whether through lost productivity or increased healthcare costs.”
Causes of Hearing Loss
The causes of hearing loss in the workplace include loud noises and chemicals that cause damage to the inner ear (ototoxic chemicals). When sound reaches 85 decibels or higher or if a person needs to raise their voice to speak to someone who is three feet away, noise is considered potentially harmful. Ototoxic chemicals include organic solvents like trichloroethylene, heavy metals like mercury and lead, and asphyxiants like carbon monoxide.
Approximately 30 million U.S. workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels or ototoxic chemicals.
How To Prevent or Minimize Hearing Loss
The good news is that much of this hearing loss is preventable. NIOSH has created a hierarchy of controls:
- Prevent or contain the escape of the hazardous workplace agent at its source (engineering control),
- control exposure by relocating the worker to a safe area (administrative controls),
- and control the exposure with barriers between the worker and the hazard (personal protective equipment).
Here are a few simple steps recommended by the CDC to reduce your employees’ risk for hearing loss:
- Use quieter equipment and keep equipment well maintained and lubricated.
- Put a barrier between employee and the source or enclose the source completely
- Increase distance between employee and source
- Reduce employee’s time in noisy areas
- Provide and enforce the use of hearing protection in noisy areas.
- Educate your employees about noise hazards
Here are tips to reduce hearing loss due to exposure to ototoxic chemicals:
- Use a less-toxic or non-toxic chemical
- Provide and enforce the use of gloves, eye protection, respirator and other protective equipment as appropriate.
- Follow all chemical safety instructions.
Hearing Loss Prevention Program Benefits
According to the CDC, “A successful hearing loss prevention program benefits both the company and the affected employee. Employees are spared disabling hearing impairments, and evidence suggests that they may experience less fatigue and generally better health. Ultimately, the company benefits from reduced medical expenses and worker compensation costs. In some cases, there may be improved morale and work efficiency.”
Contact Us For Advice on Reducing Workers Compensation Insurance Costs
To learn more about workplace safety and ways to save on workers compensation insurance costs, give American Insuring Group a call at (800) 947-1270 or (610) 775-3848 or Contact Us Online. We specialize in workers comp insurance for employers in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey.
Our independent agents will shop and compare competing insurers to find a policy that meets your needs at the best price possible. Contact us today to learn more!