Many professions come with risks and hazards, whether you’re a police officer, firefighter, truck driver, or even an office worker. And while some risks are less serious than others – think Carpal Tunnel – none of the aforementioned careers made our list of top jobs that contribute most to Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
The Center for Disease Control estimates that 22 million Americans are prone to hearing damage because of workplace noise. In many cases, that continual exposure, whether you get used to it or not, can lead to permanent hearing loss. And while genetics and old age both play a role in hearing loss, it’s the kind of repetitive noises we experience 40 hours a week that often contribute to NIHL.
10. Airport/Flight Crews
If you’ve ever been on a plane or even just to an airport, you’ve likely experienced the deafening sounds of jet engines, which can climb to 140 decibels (dB). The problem is that anything above 85dB is considered harmful. And to be safe, that number should really be lower than 75dB.
It’s not just the sounds of the engines either. The pressure of the engines, and the force they emit can also cause hearing problems. If you’re around planes taking off and landing all day – baggage handlers, shuttle drivers, flaggers, pilots, flight crew, air traffic control, etc. – you should be wearing protection.
Many of the jobs and workplaces on this list will be obvious offenders to your hearing health, and noisy manufacturing floors are no different. They are easily some of the loudest work environments you’ll find.
A combination of loud machinery, venting of compressed air, and the clanking of goods creates an environment where the noise is both loud and constant. And since noise-related hearing loss is gradual, if you’re not protecting your ears, by the time you notice something is wrong, it may be too late.
According to Gordon Hughes, Director of Clinical Programs at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately one third of all farmers suffer some form of work-related hearing loss.
The daily exposure of livestock, tractors, combines, and other loud equipment can be risky business for a farmer. A tractor can register up to 112dB, and a combine up to 105dB. And while it may seem counterintuitive, given the rural locations of most farms – far from the urban noise pollution that affects most of us – those working in agriculture are very much at risk.
7. Bus Drivers/Motorcycle Couriers
Most bus drivers deal with a constant stream of noise during a shift. The traffic can be loud. The passengers can be loud. And so can their music. With them, it’s not so much one sound, but the cumulative effect of many. Which is probably why headaches and earaches are common complaints among bus drivers.
Motorcycle couriers might have it even worse, as their engines tend to be louder, and there isn’t any glass or metal separating them from the street noise. The combination of a motorbike engine, along with wind noise, can easily reach a whopping 103dB. Motorcycle couriers who wear full helmets, that go completely over the ears, at least get a little protection.
When you consider the assortment of tools and loud machinery that accompany these professions, it’s easy to see why they’re on our list. Some of the tools that contribute to the dangerous sounds you’ll hear at construction sites include drills, hammers, saws, and a large variety of heavy machinery.
Chainsaws and jackhammers can register 110dB. Sandblasting comes in at around 125dB. And one pound of TNT detonating 15 feet away contributes to a decibel level approaching 180.
Mining, like the construction trades, is responsible for a higher percentage of workers affected by workplace noise compared to other jobs. Miners often use much of the same loud machinery, and they do so in small and enclosed spaces where that noise has nowhere to go.
According to a study by the CDC, 40% of miners are exposed to noises that regularly top 90dB. And many of those noises can reach peak levels of 135dB.
4. Military Personnel
There are obvious risks to the men and women who serve our country. But did you know that, according to a study by the Hearing Health Foundation, the most common disability among veterans is hearing loss?
The study reported that 60% of returning combat vets whom served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from NIHL. Gunfire, explosions, aircraft engines, and mechanical equipment are among the culprits. Also, according to the study, weapons-testing and use can reach up to 140dB, making it one of the highest scores on our list.
3. Entertainment Workers
If you’ve ever been to a club, this one should be a no-brainer. The music is deafening and nearly constant, and usually so loud that you can’t hear the person next to you.
Everyone working in these environments is at risk - from the DJs and musicians to the waitstaff, security, and bartenders. And it’s not just rock or heavy metal; classical and jazz also regularly register between 85dB and 105.
2.Car Racing Drivers & Support Staff
A few dozen cars going 150 miles per hour can make some serious noise. But for the guys in the pit, and certainly the driver, that noise can easily top out at 135dB.
When you factor in the crowd noise, screeching tires around sharp turns, and rushing wind – for the drivers – it’s easy to see that the car engines aren’t the only risk. And this applies to NASCAR, Formula One, and motorcycle racing.
1. School Teachers
This one may be a bit of a shocker. Usually the only risks teachers face is the risk of losing their sanity and patience. But for those teachers who school the younger students, the prolonged exposure to crying, screaming, and even singing is a risk few probably consider.
If school teachers are at risk of work-related hearing loss, it makes you wonder what other occupations present similar risks.
Losing your car keys is no fun. Losing your wallet is even less fun. But those things eventually turn up or can be replaced. With your hearing it’s different. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. If you think you might be at risk in your workplace, do a little research, speak with some experts, and find out for sure if your work environment is safe.