Work noise increases risk of hearing loss

Daily exposure to excessive noise in the workplace is the primary factor in many cases of hearing loss in the working population, with more men than women being affected.

Years in a noisy job significantly increases the risk of serious hearing difficulties and tinnitus. This was confirmed by a comprehensive British study among 12,907 men and women in 34 British general practices and the British armed services.

In the group of men with more than 10 years of work experience in noisy workplaces, severe hearing problems are 3.8 times more prevalent than among men who never work in noisy surroundings. Women with 10 years of experience in noisy jobs are 2.2 times more likely to suffer hearing difficulties than women in noise free jobs.

An American study published in 2009 shows that men are 2.5 times more likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) than women. On top of this, the study, in which 5,290 people between the ages of 20 and 69 years were audiometrically tested, concluded that white and married men were particularly at risk.

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More men in noisy work places than women

This trend is naturally connected to the fact that many more men than women are exposed to high noise levels over many years in their workplaces. While just 3% of the women in the survey worked for more than 10 years in noisy environments, the same was true for 16% of the men.

Tinnitus is another affliction associated with years in a noisy job. 13.4% of the men who have worked more than 10 years in a noisy job experience a persistent ringing or buzzing in their ears. This is 2.6 times the prevalence in men who are not exposed to a noisy work environment. Among women in noisy jobs, the prevalence of tinnitus is 2.8 times higher than normal after just 1-5 years of working in a noisy workplace.

According to the British survey, the risk of hearing difficulties and tinnitus increases after just one year in a noisy job. After five years in the job, the risk of severe hearing loss is up to three times higher than among people in jobs with little noise.

You can lessen the risks of hearing difficulties and tinnitus by protecting your ears with earplugs or other hearing protection devices at all times.

Source: Occupational exposure to noise and the attributable burden of hearing difficulties in Great Britain, Occupational and environmental medicine, 2002, 2009

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