Just about every workplace in California exposes workers to noise, which, if excessive, can cause permanent hearing damage or even hearing loss. Many workers only realize the severity of the damage when it is too late because it happens over years of exposure. Hearing loss is irreversible but preventable.
You can perform a simple test to determine whether the noise in your workplace is excessive. If you have to raise your voice when you talk to a coworker who is only an arm’s length away from you, then it is time to wear your earplugs, muffs or other protection to prevent hearing loss.
What can you do to reduce your exposure to noise?
Even with ear protection, you may benefit from taking some of the following steps to limit noise exposure:
- Never go without ear protection, and make sure you insert earplugs correctly.
- Make sure equipment is lubricated and well-maintained to limit the noise they make.
- If your job requires you to spend hours in a noisy area, take frequent breaks in quieter areas.
- If possible, limit the time you spend in areas with excessive noise.
- Use a barrier or an enclosure around the noise source.
- Work as far away from the noise source as possible.
- Avoid listening to loud music on headphones and never to drown out other load sounds.
- Learn about chemicals that can damage your hearing and avoid working with them.
- If you have no option but to work with harmful chemicals, wear a respirator.
Do not just accept the fact that you work in a noisy place, do whatever you can to protect your hearing — damage done is forever.
How will occupational hearing loss affect you?
Hearing loss can significantly affect your quality of life — not in a good way. Note the following consequences of excessive noise exposure:
- If you cannot hear instructions or warning sounds at work, or even when you drive your vehicle, you might put your life on the line multiple times each day.
- All the noises you love and sounds you want to hear will be muted, such as your favorite music and the voices of your loved ones.
- Your inability to hear properly could lead to isolation because who wants to go to the movies or theatre or dinner parties when you cannot hear?
- Health authorities say hearing loss could cause heart disease, high blood pressure and other heart problems.
- Cognitive or mental decline, sleep disorders, anxiety, and depression are all linked to hearing loss, and when you also develop tinnitus — ringing in your ears — your quality of life will deteriorate even more.
- Hearing loss might play an adverse role in the jobs you manage to secure in the future.
Fortunately, the available hearing loss prevention technologies and strategies allow you to have a say in the level of hearing loss your job causes.
What about damage already done?
Although the California workers’ compensation insurance program typically has the back of injured workers, you might find it challenging to prove that your hearing loss is work-related. This is where the skills of an experienced workers’ comp attorney come in. With legal counsel in your corner, you will likely receive all the compensation to which you are entitled under applicable laws.