A large number of workers in the service sector have an elevated hearing risk, according to a recent NIOSH study.
The “service sector” refers to the sector of the economy that provides a service rather than a good, unlike agriculture and industry. This includes education, health, finance, government, transportation, and trade.
The study analyzed 1.9 million audiograms of workers exposed to occupational noise from 2006 to 2015. Of these audiograms, more than 159,000 were from workers employed in the service sector. Across all industries combined, the prevalence of hearing loss was 16 percent. The prevalence of hearing loss in the service sector was 17 percent.
These results show that, within the service industry, numerous sub-sectors greatly exceeded the overall prevalence of hearing loss by 10 to 33 percentage points, and had many high risks for hearing loss.
Here are the key findings from NIOSH’s study:
- Workers in administration of urban planning and development had the highest occurrence of hearing loss at 50 percent
- Workers in the solid waste combustors and incinerators industry had more than double the risk of hearing loss, which was the highest of all the sub-sectors.
- In sub-sectors considered “low risk” the prevalence of hearing loss was still higher than average, including custom computer programming services (35%) and elementary and secondary schools (26%)
The study states: “Additional research and surveillance are needed for sub-sectors for which there is low awareness of hearing hazards or a lack of hearing data.”
How Common is Occupational Hearing Loss?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year.
About 12 percent of the working population is affected by occupational hearing loss, and about 24 percent of hearing impairment cases among workers are related to occupational noise exposure.
OSHA’s Hearing Safety Standard
In order to protect workers from hearing loss, OSHA created and enforced Regulation 29CFR 1910.95.
It states that employees exposed to sound levels at, or above, 85 decibels adjusted (dBA) for an 8-hour time-weight average must be provided with some means to mitigate their exposure to the hazard.
If you need to raise your voice to speak to someone three feet away, that means noise levels could be over 85 decibels. Other signs that noise may be a problem in your workplace:
- You hear ringing or humming in your ears when leaving the workplace
- Have to shout to be heard by someone an arm’s length away
- Experience temporary hearing loss after leaving the workplace
Where to Start with Hearing Conservation
It’s s time to change the hearing-loss statistics.
Relying on your employees to speak up about hearing issues is not a solution and, by that time, damage has already been done. That’s why it’s important to find a convenient, compliant solution: On-site medical surveillance testing.
Audiometric screening can detect any slight hearing issues, and save your employees from further damage. It will also save your company in excessive workers’ compensation claims and OSHA fines.
With Worksite Medical, you’ll bring the testing right to your job site. Protect your team and your workplace now.
Not sure what you need? Try our medical testing wizard here.
Give us a call at 1-844-622-8633, or complete the form below to schedule an on-site visit or to get your free quote!