Jack hammers. Nail guns. Drills. Planers. Circular saws. Routers. As a construction worker, these are probably some tools of your trade. What do they all have in common? They are loud. Prolonged exposure to loud sounds can lead to noise induced hearing loss.
Causes of Noise Induced Hearing Loss in Construction
Sound is measured in decibels. The magic number to remember is 85 decibels. According to OSHA, if you work an eight-hour shift and are repeatedly exposed to 85 decibels of noise, you’re damaging your hearing.
What does 85 decibels sound like?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a power tools database showing sound levels of some common construction tools.
- A framing saw measures about 82 decibels, the equivalent of children in a noisy school cafeteria.
- A chain saw measures about 110 decibels, similar to an accelerating motorcycle.
The louder the sound, the less exposure is needed to damage your hearing. Unprotected exposure to a chain saw can damage your hearing in just an hour.
Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss
According to OSHA, if you experience any of the following, have your hearing evaluated by a physician.
- You have trouble following a conversation when background noise is present or multiple people are talking simultaneously.
- When others are talking, it sounds like they’re mumbling.
- You frequently ask people to repeat themselves.
- You experience tinnitus (ringing in your ears).
- You have difficulty hearing people on the phone.
Potential Dangers of Hearing Loss
Why should you care about noise induced hearing loss? It affects your ability to function, and it has hidden risks, including:
- Increasing your odds of developing dementia
- Causing problems with balance
- Increasing your risk of heart disease
Protect Yourself Against On-the-job Hearing Loss
Working in construction, you can’t avoid noise. You can avoid noise induced hearing loss. According to the World Health Organization, noise induced hearing loss is the world’s most preventable occupational injury. The best way to prevent it is to wear effective hearing protection.
Additionally, there are commercially available tools you can buy to monitor the sound level around you. Personal noise indicators are inexpensive, effective and easy to use. These devices display a green light when the noise level is at a safe 85 decibels or fewer. When noise exceeds 85 decibels, the device displays a red light that signals you should take precautions to protect your hearing.
If you work in the construction industry, you work in extreme and often loud conditions. Without quality hearing protection, you’re playing Russian roulette with your hearing. Don’t risk it.