Dealing With Noise Pollution
The rock band AC/DC once sang “Rock N Roll ain’t noise pollution.” Unfortunately, for many workers loud levels of unwanted noise is a daily part of the job.
The major deterioration of hearing occurs during the first 5 to 10 years of employment in a noise risk environment. Occupational hearing loss is most likely to happen at one of the twenty jobs on this list.
Does Your Job Make the Top 20?
You may have already figured out some of these jobs with deafening sound levels, like aircraft ground control crews, construction workers, and race car driving. Others may surprise you, like nursery school teaching or serving in the military!
What Makes a Job Loud?
Regular exposure to sounds above 85dB (decibels) will cause gradual hearing loss in a significant number of individuals. The ear can be damaged by long-term exposure to noises or by acute, high-impact noises. Repeated short bursts of 100-115 dB can damage hearing abilities indefinitely.
How Many Americans Are Exposed?
Data from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health finds 9 million American workers are exposed to continuous noise levels that exceeds 85 dBA during 90% of their work weeks.
List of Top 20 Jobs That Cause Hearing Loss
- Airline Ground Staff
This includes aircraft maintenance personnel, baggage handlers, and airline ground control. Jet Engines emit sound as loud as 140 dB, which makes this one of the loudest professions in the world! Luckily, pilots and cabin crew experience daily levels lower than 85 dB.
- Construction Workers
Ear protection is an absolute must in the building trades. Between the bulldozers, jackhammers, and trucks backing up, peak noise levels can reach 120 dB.
Another profession which uses jackhammers, miners have been documented to experience high levels of workplace noise.
Nail guns create 110-130 dB of noise depending on how cramped the quarters are that one is working in. Consistent sawing of materials can chip away at your hearing with many industrial machines running at 70 dB or more in volume.
Chainsaws used by lumberjacks run at an ear-splitting 120 dB. The thicker the tree, the larger the chainsaw you need to cut it down. And the larger the chainsaw, the larger the motor and electrical components,which usually makes for a louder tool. Logging is another profession where ear protection is required.
- DJ’s & Musicians
Loud venues, amplifiers, and the undying spirit of rock and roll – which was always meant to be played loudly – all contribute to make this one of the most dangerous professions to work in. Even classical musicians are not immune; standing onstage in the musical pit exposes the ear to 115 dB.
- Nightclub workers
Have you ever tried to start a conversation in a nightclub? It’s nearly impossible, right? Bartenders, wait staff, and security personnel listen to the loud tunes during their working hours, night after night.
- Railway workers
Performing maintenance work of trains and tracks could be at risk of developing noise-induced hearing loss, since they are exposed to noise levels of 75–90 dB with peak exposures of 130–140 dB when trains pass by.
We tend to think of farmers at home in rural countrysides with blue skies above and birds chirping in the background. We don’t always think of the loud machinery, tractors, combines, and rotary cutters they listen to on a daily basis. These machines can run as loud as 105 dB.
- Race Car Drivers
Many would actually place this job at position number one. Sounds can reach 135 dB in NASCAR, Formula 1 and NHRA racing events. You can feel the rattle of the cars zooming past! Drivers wear hearing protection and special headsets, but audience-members standing too close to the action are at risk of hearing loss as well.
- Truck Drivers
This study showed that having work experience as a truck driver had a significant contributing effect on hearing thresholds. Loud sound is created by trucks’ parts running and is accentuated by bad roads and outside traffic in congested areas. The researchers recommend truck drivers reduce their hours on the road, but in a job where your paycheck is directly affected by how often you drive, this is easier said than done.
- Subway Conductors
Trains entering and leaving subway stations can reach over 100 dB. The metro transit authority in New York City have tried adding lubricating tracks on sharp curves, using quieter train wheels, and installing composite brake shoes to stop the subway cars from screeching – but that signature subway screech is, unfortunately, still a part of the job.
- Garbage men
Garbage trucks cause 85 to 100 dB of noise. This occupational noise comes from trucks backing up, lifting containers, garbage getting picked up and dropped from high elevations. This is a stressful job for the nose as well!
Gardeners and landscaping professionals use a variety of tools to keep gardens well-manicured. Lawnmowers, string trimmers, and edgers are as loud as 80 – 90 dB.
Fire alarms are loud for a reason. They are meant to get individuals out of a burning building! Sirens, fire alarms, and fire pumps can reach up to 90 dB.
- Ambulance Driver
Many firefighters are actually certified as ambulance drivers and EMTs. These emergency responders work in the body of the ambulance (whooshing by with sirens blasting) to stabilize the patient en route to the hospital.
Between the roar of the ship or aircraft, gunfire, explosions, IEDs, drill-bells, and the stereotypical drill instructor shouting in your ear, military members are at risk for hearing loss. Bonus: To find out how veterans can qualify for hearing aids through the department of Veterans Affairs, click here!
- Nursery School Teacher
A class of 30 children can get exceptionally noisy. Research shows that average sound levels in an 8 hour work day range from 70 – 80 dB. Maximal sound levels can get as high as 115 db.
- Blacksmiths, Welders, Metalworkers
Metal working and smithing was actually the world’s first loud job on record. The grinding and clanging of metal on metal can reach 100 dB. Metal is a substance that must be molded by force; unfortunately this makes it a noisy job.
Motorcycle drivers who deliver packages are at-risk for hearing loss. For example, Harley Davidson motorcycles’ exhaust systems can emit noise as loud as 80 dB. Defective mufflers can magnify this noise.
Improving Work Conditions
Clearly many of the professions involve manual labor, machinery, and transportation. Companies can help by soundproofing the workplace, keeping machinery up to date, and providing high-grade hearing protection.
Government Regulation of Noise at Work
What to Do if You Work in a Noisy Environment at Work
To find out how you can better protect your workplace or perhaps file a work safety claim against your employer, visit the osha.gov website.
Hard of hearing at work? You have rights!
OSHA defends U.S. workers
In 1971 the U.S. Department of Labor opened up a branch that dealt with workplace safety, workplace sanitation, and workplace noise level issues. It was named OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) – and their website, osha.gov lets you file safety and health complaints. Workers have rights – get informed today!