Hearing Loss from Working on Construction Sites
New research is shining light on hearing loss in construction workers. A study conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training (CPWR) found that construction workers were much more likely to experience some degree of hearing loss than other reference groups, and found a number of factors that may be linked to this higher rate of hearing loss.
The research itself was published in February by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine (note: subscription required), and has been summarized by Safety and Health Magazine.
The study, conducted using data from the Building Trades Medical Screening Program, looked specifically at 19,000 individuals with a history of employment at nuclear power sites owned by the Department of Energy. This set was compared to two other sets, one internal but with lower exposure to noise and other factors, and the other external and experiencing lower levels of noise exposure.
CPWR found that the main set of construction workers experienced a “significantly increased risk of hearing loss compared to reference populations.” Overall, 58 percent of former construction workers were found to have some degree of hearing loss, with the odds increasing based on factors such as time on the job. In fact, former construction workers with at least 30 years of experience were four times more likely to show signs of hearing loss than those with fewer than 10 years of construction experience. Smoking was linked to an 18 percent increase in the odds of experiencing hearing loss, and high amounts of exposure to solvents was linked to a 15 percent increase in hearing loss rates compared to those with the lowest exposure.
Regulation and Response
According to the Human Resources website BLR, Mississippi does not have its own regulations about noise in the workplace and relies on federal OSHA standards. These federal standards state that employers must provide a hearing conservation program and a monitoring program for any employees who, over the course of 8 hours, experience a weighted average noise level of at least 85 decibels. At that same level, employers are required to provide hearing protection, and workers are required to wear protective gear during and for some periods after exposure. This level of potentially damaging noise is lower than one may expect, as explained by Healthy Hearing; city traffic is only 90 decibels, while power tools average 100.
Employers have an obligation to protect the hearing of their workers, and these high rates of hearing loss may be pointing to a failure on their part. We must hold employers accountable for the safety and continued well-being of workers. If you have experienced some degree of hearing loss that you suspect was related to your employment, contact us today to learn how we can help.