OSHA has launched a new Safety and Health Topics page to help prevent work-related hearing loss – one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States for more than 25 years.

According to the agency, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise each year. Since 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. In 2009 alone, BLS reported more than 21,000 hearing loss cases.

The page on Occupational Noise Exposure provides resources intended to help prevent noise-related hearing loss, through topics including:

  • How does the ear work?
  • What are the warning signs that your workplace may be too noisy?
  • How loud is too loud?
  • What can be done to reduce the hazard from noise?
  • How can OSHA help?

OSHA notes that exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss which cannot be corrected by surgery a hearing aid. “Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noisy area. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss.”

Additionally, loud noise can create physical and psychological stress which reduces productivity, interfere with communication and concentration and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals. Noise-induced hearing loss limits one’s ability to hear high frequency sounds, understand speech, and communicate.

The effects of hearing loss can be profound, affecting activity levels and social relationships and leading to psychological and social isolation.

Click here to visit OSHA’s Occupational Noise Exposure page.