Occupational noise is defined as noise in the workplace. High levels of occupational noise can lead to noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL, which is one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, has reported that more than 30 million workers in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise each year and thousands of workers suffer from preventable hearing loss due to workplace high-noise levels.
NIHL is one of the most common occupational diseases and the second most self-reported occupational illness or injury. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in manufacturing, and accounts for one in nine recordable illnesses.
A recent report on some of the noisiest occupations in the United States include:
- Plumbing, and
- The military, among others
A number of sources and studies on hearing conservation have reaffirmed the effect of military service on hearing and documented the growing incidence and prevalence of NIHL among American Service members and Veterans.
Service-related occupational noise includes:
- Jackhammers: 130 decibels
- Jet engines: 150 decibels
- Gunfire: 160 decibels, and
- Bomb blasts: 175 decibels
It’s vital that Service members take special care to protect their hearing from occupational noise. This means working together with their service’s hearing conservation programs and leadership, as well as taking control of their own health by adopting proper preventive measures, healthy hearing habits, and regular screening by a trained audiologist or medical professional. Remember, there are a variety of mobile applications and hand-held noise meters available that monitor noise levels.