Hearing loss on the job is a serious problem for millions of American workers. Illinois workplace accident attorneys can name many industries where noise exposure is a major health hazard. A number of businesses have begun implementing programs to decrease occupational noise, but far too many employees still lose their hearing because of unsafe conditions in the workplace.
Job-related deafness is a pervasive problem
According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, approximately 30 million American employees are exposed to some level of harmful noise on the job each year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 21,000 cases of work-related deafness or serious hearing loss during the year 2009. Most of this hearing loss is preventable.
Industries with elevated risk of hearing loss
Illinois workplace accident attorneys know many jobs in which employees face an elevated risk of hearing loss. Some of the most dangerous professions include factory work, construction, shipbuilding, road work and other heavy industries. Jobs in the entertainment industry can also expose workers to damaging levels of sound, causing deafness in some cases.
How much noise exposure is needed to cause deafness?
Noise exposure does not have to be long-term to cause severe hearing loss or deafness. Sound at a level of 110 decibels can permanently damage hearing in as little as one minute. The danger is especially acute for employees who spend time near equipment such as jackhammers or jet engines. Illinois workplace accident attorneys are aware that these workers can become deaf after only a few days on the job.
Signs of dangerous noise exposure
If workers are exposed to dangerous levels of noise, they will most likely begin to suffer symptoms of impending hearing loss. The most common symptoms include the following:
- Ringing in the ears
- Humming in the ears
- Difficulty following normal conversations
- Temporary loss of hearing after leaving work
Employees who notice these signs should seek additional noise protection immediately.
Workers’ compensation for hearing loss
Workers who have suffered hearing loss on the job may be eligible for workers’ compensation. According to Illinois law, partial hearing loss is only considered a work-related disability if the damage occurs in normal conversational frequencies. Complete deafness, like the complete loss of any sense, is treated as a permanent disability that qualifies for long term workers’ compensation benefits.
Coping with job-related deafness can be challenging. Employees with hearing loss may find it helpful to meet with an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney to discuss their rights.