What Are the Noisiest Occupations?
While hearing loss can be attributed to factors such as genetic conditions, infections, or buildup of earwax, one form of hearing loss, known as sensorineural hearing loss, is caused by damage or deterioration of hairs cells inside the ear that detect sound. This type of hearing loss can result from exposure to loud noises.
For some, sensorineural hearing loss is caused by simply being a fan of loud music. For others, noise is part of their job description. Each year, twenty-two million of the US’s 160 million person workforce work with potentially damaging sounds.
Before we unveil some of those occupations, we need to know what noises are considered “damaging”. Generally, long or repeated exposure greater than 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. To put this number into perspective, a normal conversation is 60-65 decibels, heavy city traffic is 85 decibels, and a thunderclap is 120 decibels.
But 85 dB is the lower limit. The more intense the sound, the faster it can damage your ears. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration have put limits on occupational noise intensities, shown below.
|Duration per day, hours||Sound level dBA slow response|
|.25 or less||115|
Now, with this information, it is time to unveil some of the loudest occupations, based on equipment used and the period of exposure. They are as follows:
The common tools in carpentry have sound levels ranging from 90-115 dB, far above the intensity that can cause hearing damage.
Large, noisy machinery is common in manufacturing, thus hearing damage is prevalent. Occupational hearing loss is the most common illness in manufacturing and more than 82% occupational hearing loss cases originate in manufacturing.
Similar to manufacturing, agriculture works with loud machinery. In addition, they also encounter loud animals, as pig squeals can reach up to 105 dB. Who knew?
Airline Ground Maintenance
Though a flight attendant or security guard need not worry about severe hearing loss, the ground personnel should. The sound of jet plane at takeoff is 140 dB, which is highly damaging to the ears of airline ground maintenance.
Similar to aviation, people in the military often come in close contact with airplanes and jets, in addition to loud guns and other firearms.
If your occupation falls into one of these categories, don’t worry; there are ways to slow down hearing loss. Just be aware of sound levels—generally, if you need to shout to be heard, it is too loud—, wear earplugs, earmuffs, or other protection while participating in loud activities, and see a medical professional if difficulty hearing is affecting your lifestyle.
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