One of the biggest contributors to your hearing loss could be your job, and for many people, once your hearing is gone, you can’t get it back. Sure, there are excellent hearing aids and accessories on the market these days, but it’s still better to keep your hearing in the first place.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2006 there were more than 1.2 million Canadians over the age of 15 who reported some kind of hearing loss. That means that 5% of Canadians suffer with some degree of hearing limitation, which may result in limits to the kind of work available, advancement opportunities, and the number of hours that they can work.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) typically happens when a sound reaches 85 dB or more. The likelihood of a noise causing hearing loss increases with the amount of time you are exposed to sound. To put that into perspective, a conversation is probably closer to 60 dB while an idling bulldozer is about 85 dB - enough to cause permanent damage after one 8-hour shift on the job. Meanwhile, a single loud noise, like gunfire (150 dB), can cause immediate permanent hearing damage.
So what kind of jobs can cause hearing loss or cause you to go deaf?
Jobs in the construction industry are one of the biggest culprits for Noise Induced Hearing Loss. A nail gun generates 110 - 140 dB of noise while a jackhammer can cause 85 to 100 dB. Of course, on a construction site, workers are exposed to a variety of high-decibel sounds throughout the day, prolonging exposure and increasing hearing damage exponentially.
Between jet engines, tanks, cannons, and gunfire, it’s no surprise that military jobs can lead to hearing damage. Even when they aren’t in the field, military personnel will be exposed to loud noises during training. Most guns are in excess of 150 dB when being fired, which is more than enough to cause immediate damage to your hearing.
Many people think of farming as the quiet life, but a tractor can generate 112 decibels of noise. Factor in that a Southern Alberta farmer may spend hours on the tractor each day and it’s easy to see how agriculture can be one of the most damaging industries for your hearing. Some research even suggests that nearly 75% of farmers in the United States have some level of hearing loss.
In Calgary, the oil industry is a big part of our local economy with countless Calgarians heading out into the oilfield to make a living. On the job site, workers may be exposed to loud equipment that runs continuously, as well as intermittent loud noises throughout the day. These hearing damage inducing noises can be caused by everything from pumps and tanks to generators and derrick, dog house and pipe decks.
If you’re a musician, you know how important your hearing is. You rely on your ears to help you stay in tune and perform, but are you doing what you can to protect your hearing? What about if you’re a bouncer, bartender, or waitress? Concert and nightclub speakers typically put out between 110 - 140 dB of noise. That’s a lot, particularly if you are working for several hours straight and you don’t have hearing protection.
Perhaps the least obvious culprit of Noise Induced Hearing Loss in the workplace is the typical professional office. These days, it is not uncommon to walk into an office space and find employees plugging away at their computers with their headphones on and their toes tapping. The problem is that stock headphones with your music player turned up to full blast can generate more than 100 dB of sound. And that sound is going directly into your ears! Who knew that your desk job would be causing you more hearing damage than a factory!
So now that we have you thinking about the noise levels in your job, what can you do about them? The first step is to get your hearing tested. Even if there is nothing immediately wrong with your hearing, getting a baseline for future tests and tracking hearing loss can be very helpful. The next step is to protect the hearing that you do have.
Hearing protection often has a Noise Reduction Rating. This number does not reduce your ear’s exposure by the corresponding number though. A more accurate formula is to take the NRR number, subtract 7 and divide by two. So wearing earplugs with a NRR 33 dB rating would reduce the noise at the 100 dB concert to 87 dB.
For added protection in the workplace and on the job site, we recommend that you have custom hearing protection or ear plugs fitted. It’s a service that we offer at our Calgary hearing clinic and it allows us to ensure a snug and comfortable fit that will help protect your hearing from damage.
If you would like to schedule an appointment, you can give Academy Hearing Centres a call at 403-210-2482.