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Hearing loss America’s most common workplace injury

When you think about dangerous jobs, you may picture loggers, construction workers, taxi drivers and others who face clear, obvious risks every time they clock in for the work day. Workers in these professions may run the risk of suffering broken bones, cuts and lacerations and other potentially serious injuries. However, there is a far more widespread work-related injury that is affecting people in many industries, including those that may not seem inherently dangerous: hearing loss.

According to USA Today, hearing loss is now the single-most-common work injury affecting American workers across all industries, with about 22 million Americans facing dangerous levels of noise exposure every year. In fact, hearing loss has become so common among American workers that it now costs employers about $242 million every year in workers’ compensation costs.

Risk factors

While working in certain industries, such as construction, mining or manufacturing, places you at higher risk for work-related hearing loss, you may also face such risks in other professions where the noise hazards are less obvious. Why? In work environments where loud noises are the norm, workers are far more likely to don noise-muffling headphones or other protective gear than they are in industries where noise risks are not as well-documented.

Another problem involves the fact that the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets guidelines that dictate at what point workers should take preventative measures to protect their hearing, but these guidelines have become outdated. For example, these guidelines only consider noises that stem directly from the work environment, while ignoring potentially hazardous outside noises, such as those that come from concerts, sporting events or other noisy atmospheres. Money, too, is often an issue for smaller companies who need to protect their workers. If the costs associated with providing proper protective equipment become too high, some companies simply stop trying to mitigate hearing loss risks.

If you suffer from work-related hearing loss, you may find yourself in need of financial support. In some cases, however, workers suffering from hearing loss find it difficult to qualify for disability benefits.

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