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3 Jobs That May Increase Noise-Induced Hearing Loss Risk

By Kyle Kirkland
Medically Reviewed by Jordan Glicksman, MD, FRCSC, MPH on January 13, 2021
Over 10 million Americans struggle with noise-induced hearing loss. Here are three jobs that may put you at risk of losing your hearing.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), loud noise above 120 decibels can cause immediate harm to your ears (a normal conversation is about 60 decibels). With prolonged exposure less intense noise can also cause hearing loss (e.g. 85 db over the course of 8 hours or more). It is easy to think that, as long as you avoid loud music, your hearing will not be affected. Even though it may not seem like it, there are jobs that people work at every day that can permanently affect their hearing.

Here are three jobs that can cause noise-induced hearing loss. If you work at any of these jobs, there are symptoms you can watch for to see if your hearing has been affected.

Food Service Workers

“People who work in the food-service industry suffer from noise-induced hearing loss,” Kelly Dyson, audiologist, tells WebMD Connect to Care. “Bartenders are additionally exposed to loud blenders, and they cannot wear ear plugs when taking orders.”

While at a small diner, Dyson pulled a sound level meter out and the noise exceeded 85 decibels.

“Noise-induced hearing loss may occur with sound over 85 decibels, only about 20 decibels louder than conversing in a noisy restaurant,” Dyson says.

Mechanics

In addition to food service workers, Dyson says mechanics are vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss.

“Anyone in the automotive repair industry exposed to power tools and air compressors will suffer from noise exposure,” Dyson says. 

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, a typical Black & Decker power drill reaches 99 decibels. With multiple power tools being used and the need to talk louder than the tools and car noises, mechanics can expect to experience noise-induced hearing loss if they don’t wear some type of ear protection.

Teachers

“Teachers are almost always surprised when told they have a noise-induced hearing loss,” Dyson says. “They’ll say, ‘My classroom was never loud,’ but public schools, with school bells, fire alarms”—which can be anywhere from 65 to 120 decibels—“and cafeterias, are full of extreme noise levels."

The risk of jobs with higher-than-normal noise levels is the gradual effect it can have on hearing. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, noise-induced hearing loss can start slowly and the symptoms may go unnoticed or ignored. This can lead to more severe and potentially permanent damage.

Hearing Loss Can Be Treated and Managed.

In many cases, hearing loss is a treatable condition. It is worth taking the time out to get the answers and treatment you or your loved one deserves. Don’t wait. Start today.