Hearing Conservation – Preventing Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise can be disruptive to our health and well being. In addition to impairing communication and causing stress, excessive noise can cause ear injuries and other health complications such as loss of balance.

Sustained exposure to high levels of noise or even a short burst of loud noise, for example an explosion, can lead to permanent hearing loss.

According to the Quick Statistics on Hearing Loss maintained by NIDCD (The National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders), 15% of American adults suffer from some degree of hearing loss. The page also reports that that there is a strong relation between age and hearing loss.

However, the recent article Can You Hear Me Now? The Impacts of Hearing Loss by Katherine Torres, cites a study that indicates that hearing loss is not necessarily a factor of age alone. The noisy industrialized world we live in is the likely cause of the majority of hearing loss in adults.

Richard Danielson, an associate professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and a consultant for NASA Johnson Space Center, says a study conducted in the 1960s on the Mabaan tribe in Sudan challenged that assumption. The study found that the primitive tribal elders, who had no access to any form of man-made technology that could produce noise to harm their hearing, had the same level of hearing as the teenagers of the same tribe.

The article also states that noise induced hearing loss is one of the most commonly overlooked work related injuries.

So what can we do protect our hearing? Here are some recommendations from OSHA:

  • If it is too loud to hear another voice from three feet away, do not work without hearing protection.
  • When choosing hearing protectors, such as earplugs or earmuffs, select one that fits comfortably.
  • Always turn off loud machinery before removing hearing protection.
  • Have an annual hearing test if you are regularly exposed to loud noise.

Additional guidelines and resources from OSHA may be found on their Noise and Hearing Conservation web page.

A list of Hearing Conservation safety training products we offer may be found