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Job-Related Hearing Loss: What Should You Know About This Common Workplace Injury?

If you work in a job field that exposes your ears to high levels of noise, you may be at risk for hearing loss. Whether it's temporary or permanent, hearing loss isn't something to take lightly. If you can't hear around you, you could potentially place you and other workers at risk for accidents. Here's how work-related hearing loss develops and how you can protect your ears from it:

How Does Loud Noise Affect Your Hearing?

One of the most common workplace injuries and illnesses to affect employees is hearing loss. The loss of hearing can occur at close-range, from a distance, or from repeated exposure to loud sounds. Close-range and repeated exposure to loud noises can potentially cause a permanent loss of hearing.

A loss of hearing often occurs in the inner ear. The inner ear contains tissues that receive and process vibrations of sound. If the inner ear experiences noise-induced trauma, it can't process the vibrations traveling through it. You might hear some of the sounds filtering into your ears, or you might not hear anything at all.

The symptoms of inner ear damage can include tinnitus (ringing ears) and the inability to hear or process high-frequency sounds. High-frequency sounds are sounds that have high pitches, such as a woman's voice or bird's chirp. The high-pitched sounds you do hear may appear muffled or stifled.

You can protect your ears by making some changes in how you perform your duties at work and by having your hearing checked.

How Do You Protect Your Hearing?

Job-related hearing loss is avoidable if you wear the appropriate gear at work. If you work with machines or drive trucks, wear earphones or headphones. The devices prevent loud noises from entering your middle ear. Some types of gear come with features that allow you to adjust the volume of sound you hear. 

You can also see an ENT specialist for an examination of your ears. A specialist can perform a hearing test on both ears to see if you have problems picking up sounds, including high-frequency sounds. If you don't have permanent damage to your ears, an ENT may monitor your hearing regularly to ensure that it stays healthy. If you do have hearing loss, a doctor may fit you with hearing aids. Hearing aids restore or improve your ability to hear all sounds. 

You can obtain more details about job-related hearing loss by scheduling an appointment with a local ENT like Mark Montgomery MD FACS