Occupational hearing loss

What is an occupational disease?

For a disease to be considered work-related , it must occur in the course of employment where the worker is in contact with one or more hazardous to health officials . In order to describe the occupational disease , you must provide the name of the disease, the affected organ or part of the body affected .

** If you think that you suffered hearing loss due to your line of work, you should meet with a hearing health professional.

Noise pollution

It will come as no surprise to learn that noise has considerably increased over the past years. Why? Because technology has greatly progressed: the equipment, the office environment, the intense listening of music using powerful earphones, and traffic all make for a noisier environment.

Noise can become a major nuisance for an individual. It directly impacts one’s health and quality of life, causing various troubles like stress, effects on the immune, cardio-vascular and endocrinian systems, affecting mental health.

Sound Levels Scale

Noise typeDecibelsImpact on hearing
Whispering 20 dB Calm
Calm office 40 dB Pleasant
Washing machine 50 dB Pleasant
Students in a classroom/Restaurant 70 dB Annoying
Car 80 dB Annoying
Racing motorcycle 100 dB Tedious
Concert and discotheque 110 dB Risk of deafness
Plane taking off 130 dB Painful

On an average day, the sound level is of 85 dB or less. Sounds below 85 dB are not dangerous or harmful for a person’s hearing health. However, sounds over the 85 dB limit can have an impact. Therefore, motorcycle noises, concerts and discotheques can harm the inner ear and create permanent hearing loss. A few hours alone can affect a person’s hearing.

Sound Levels of Leisure Activities

Noise typeDecibels
Power tool 85 to 113 dB
Concert and discotheque 90 to 110 dB
Aerobic classes music 39 to 96 dB
Audio system (car) 84 to 108 dB
Maximum volume of earphones on a music player 60 to 110 dB

According to Canadian studies, many teens and young adults have suffered permanent hearing loss caused by exposure to very high sound levels linked to leisure activities.

You run a serious risk of permanently damaging your hearing by exposing it to noises louder than 85 dB. You can observe in the above table the types of noises that can dangerously affect your hearing. It is essential to control the sound level of these noises and to avoid submitting to them daily.

If you have difficulty keeping up with a conversation when there is background noise, or if you feel people around you are mumbling, you should tell your doctor about it. If your doctor detects permanent hearing loss, he’ll most likely recommend acquiring a hearing aid.

Risky Jobs

In the industrial sector, thousands of people are diagnosed with professional deafness every year. Which professions are highest-risk, and how can you prevent damage?

Many workers are exposed to sounds over 85 dB. From that point on, employers have to offer their employees anti-noise protection. That said, if noise is tedious starting at 65 to 70 dB, it becomes dangerous for the ear around 90 dB. The danger it represents depends on the sound’s purity, its intensity, its rhythm, the amount of time you’re exposed to it, and its association with vibrations.

Some jobs are riskier than others. In a typical office, the sound level rarely goes over 40 dB, but on a construction site, in the wood industry or in weaving mills, noise can be a real problem (jackhammers, compressed-air machines, powersaws, circular saws, etc.). Most machines used go up to 100 dB.

Preventing Professional Deafness

Before being assigned to work typically associated to sounds at or above 85 dB, a worker should always protect his or her ears with individual protection (foam earplugs, ear defenders, personalized hearing protectors).

Recommended links

Occupational Noise Exposure (United States Department of Labor)  

Noise-induced hearing loss - Workplace standards (Wikipedia)  

Bruit & Société - in French only  

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