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The most common work-related injury in the U.S. is occupational hearing loss, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An estimated 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise at work, and some 9 million are exposed to ototoxic chemicals.

Moreover $242 million is spent on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability annually.

Ototoxic Hearing Loss

Ototoxic chemicals are chemicals hazardous to hearing. Some of them are capable of damaging the auditory mechanism alone. Others may exacerbate the damaging effects of noise on hearing. Ten million workers are potentially exposed to ototoxic solvents.

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) can be caused by a one-time exposure to loud sound as well as by repeated exposure to sounds at various loudness levels over an extended period of time.

NHIL is caused by damage to the hair cells that are found in our inner ear. Hair cells are small sensory cells that convert the sounds we hear (sound energy) into electrical signals that travel to the brain. Once damaged our hair cells cannot grow back, causing permanent hearing loss.

Tinnitus, a continuous noise in the ear as ringing, buzzing, clicking, can also be the result. It affects 50 million people in the U.S.

A report by the Children’s Hearing Institute found hearing loss among children and young adults is rising in the U.S. and that one-third of the damage is caused by noise.

An estimated one child in every eight has noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), according to the American Academy of Audiology. That means some five million children have a preventable disability that will be with them for life.

Hearing Loss Facts

Fact: Just 15 minutes a day near a noisy subway can cause permanent hearing damage.

Fact: Listening to an MP3 Player at high volumes can cause permanent hearing damage.

Fact: 15 million people in the United Dates avoid seeking help for hearing loss.

Fact: The leading cause of hearing loss is noise – noise at home, work or play. And can affect anyone at any age.

Protect Your Ears

Parents should first listen to noise-making toys before purchasing them to determine how loud they truly are.

The sound should be kept down on computer games and stereo equipment. Most MP3 players and iPods have a function to set a maximum volume setting which is particularly helpful for parents.

Avoid loud movies. Children that participate in bands or adults who use power tools should use hearing protection which is available at the pharmacy or sporting good stores.

Center for Hearing and Communication encourages quiet time activities such as reading, puzzles, art, and visiting libraries and museums.

Finally, with occupational hearing loss being so prevalent it is important to follow all safety guidelines in your field of work particularly in jobs such as the airport, race tracks, assembly lines, or other areas where “harmful noise” may occur.

“Hearing protection is a sound investment.” -Author Unknown

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