Workers at Risk of Hearing Disorders
Workers in the manufacturing, construction, and marine industries account for many of the occupational hearing loss cases reported in the United States each year. But hearing loss from exposure to loud noises in the workplace is highly preventable with the use of proper hearing protection.
The number of hearing loss cases reached 869 in 2012, compared with 741 the previous year, according to a report by EHS Today, which cited the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The manufacturing sector includes some of the noisiest workplaces in the world, and not just in the United States. The manufacturing sector accounted for 488 of the 2012 cases, with more than half occurring in metalworking.
The maritime industry accounted for 154 cases in 2012, while 59 cases occurred in the construction sector.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, U.S. workplaces with the greatest risk for occupational hearing-related loss are mining, quarrying, oil and gas extraction, construction, agriculture, forestry and fishing, and hunting. In the mining industry, hearing loss is such a hazard that as many as 27 percent of mining workers are reported to have some degree of hearing loss.
Each patient has a different type and amount of hearing loss, so a hearing evaluation is essential for accurate diagnosis and treatment planning.
The amount of hearing loss can vary depending on their conditions. It is also possible for hearing loss to affect one’s ability to hear specific sounds, such as low/deep pitches or high/sharp pitches.
There is still a chance that people with minimal hearing loss can respond to sounds in their environment, even if their hearing loss is restricted to a specific pitch range. Despite not being able to hear all the sounds of the words spoken, adults may turn when their name is called.
Speech and language can be affected even by mild hearing loss. It is important to have a hearing evaluation if you suspect you have any type of hearing loss so that proper treatment can be prescribed.
There are several types of hearing loss, including:
Conductive Hearing Loss
When sounds are not sent through the outer or middle ear, they become muffled. There are several possible causes for this type of hearing loss, including fluid behind the ear drum, infection behind the ear drum, wax buildup, and foreign objects in the ear canal. In addition, it may be caused by a condition present at birth, such as an irregularity of the middle ear’s bones. With time, medication, or surgery, it may resolve. Hearing aids may be necessary if it doesn’t resolve.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Cochlea (the inner ear) hair cells are damaged in this condition. For patients who have this kind of hearing loss, sounds need to be louder to be detected. Despite being loud enough, sounds may be difficult to understand. There are two types of hearing loss: congenital, which is present at birth, and acquired, which is acquired after birth. Typically, this type of hearing loss cannot be resolved with medical treatment, and hearing aids are recommended instead.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Patients with both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss experience this condition. Hearing aids may be used to treat the remaining sensorineural hearing loss after a medical intervention has resolved the conductive hearing loss.
Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder
As part of sensorineural hearing loss, the auditory nerve sends messages to the auditory centers of the brain differently every time. Patients with this disorder perceive sound as distorted, which makes speech difficult to understand, especially in noisy environments, regardless of the amount of hearing loss they experience.
Michael Parsons is an Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer representing injured workers in the metro Atlanta region and helping them obtain the full workers’ compensation benefits that they have earned. Contact us for legal advice on getting compensation for your workplace injury. Don’t hesitate! If you’ve been injured at work, you are not alone.