Did you know your workers’ hearing loss may lead to a host of other problems in their life? Hearing impairment reaches beyond losing the ability to hear sounds. It leads to poor physical health, mental health struggles, and personal and professional complications.
As a safety manager, you want the best for your workforce. It’s vital to discuss and educate your team regarding the full effects of hearing loss. Here are some things to know about hearing loss and its impact on your workers’ quality of life. Use this information to motivate your team and create a culture of safety.
Physical health and balance
The physical toll is one of the most prominent and, often unconsidered, effects of hearing loss. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), shows that untreated hearing loss was associated with an almost 30 percent greater risk for falls, a 52 percent greater risk of dementia and a 41 percent higher risk of depression when compared with those who had no hearing loss.
While seemingly unrelated, hearing loss and balance problems are symptoms of common ear diseases known as Labyrinthitis and Meniere’s disease. A study published in Archives of Internal Medicine shows that decreased hearing ability also reduces auditory cues needed for environmental awareness. Lastly, hearing loss may increase the brain’s “cognitive load”, reducing the brain’s resources for other tasks such as maintaining posture, thereby increasing the risk of falling.
Lost hearing is closely correlated with low self-esteem, stress, depression and irritability. The common denominator of these symptoms? Isolation, impeded communication and lost interaction with people. The more someone loses his/her hearing, the more he/she suffers from social withdrawal.
When one of your employees experiences hearing loss, a cycle begins. They may have difficulty receiving and processing information from a conversation. This lack of comprehension leads to isolation and depression as they won’t feel connected to the work community.
Fortunately, noise-induced hearing loss is a preventable illness. Workplace noise exposure can be reduced and occupational hearing loss prevented with hearing loss strategies and technology. For example, your worksite’s noise level can be maintained with low-noise tools and machinery, well-lubricated equipment or well-barricaded sound walls between the noise and your workers.
With your workforce, be aware of the symptoms of hearing loss, including:
• Trouble understanding speech (especially in a noisy environment or over the phone)
• Pressure in ears
• Muffled noises
• Ringing in ear
• Speaking loudly or asking others to repeat themselves
While there’s no cure for hearing loss, hearing aids may provide significant help. Unfortunately, hearing aids are expensive and need replacing every 3-5 years. The best interest of both the employer and employee is served by preventing noise-induced hearing loss in the first place and reducing the likelihood of needing hearing aids in the future.
Remember that OSHA requires an annual hearing test in certain work environments. Examinetics partners with more than 3,500 companies to keep their workforce in compliance with regulatory mandates through high-quality hearing conservation services. Our mobile hearing testing services come directly to your job site. Stay compliant with OSHA Noise Standard 29 CFR 191.95 with OSHA audiometric testing services that keep your workforce safe and productive.
It is important for companies to find an employee health screening partner with a trusted reputation and a broad set of services with your needs in mind.
• Lin FR, Yaffe K, Xia J. Hearing Loss and cognitive Decline. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(4)
• Lin FR, Ferrucci L. Hearing Loss and Falls Among Older Adults in the United States. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Feb 27
This is business-to-business information intended for EHS (environmental health and safety) professionals and not intended for the final consumer. Companies should check the local regulatory status of any claim according to their individual needs, requirements and intended use.