The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that noise-induced hearing loss is listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States. Each year, 30 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace resulting in 125,000 cases of significant, permanent hearing loss having been reported since 2004. In fact, exposure to loud potentially damaging noise has not only been recognized as an occupational hazard, it has permeated our personal lives, as well as at home and at play.

In 1983, OSHA responded to concerns about workplace noise exposure by adopting the Hearing Conservation Amendment to the Noise Standard - thus, setting in place specific guidelines on protecting the hearing of America’s workforce whenever noise exposure reached the critical level of 85 dBA or greater over an eight-hour time-weighted average. It is equally important for each individual worker to embrace these same guidelines when exposed to loud noise off the job. At the end of the day, the potential damage to hearing is no different from noise exposure in our personal lives than it is at work.

The OSHA Hearing Conservation Amendment (29 CFR 1910.95) outlines specific important steps for the employer and employee to undertake to prevent hearing loss from loud workplace noise. These same steps should be embraced and shared with family members at home for exposure to power tools, lawn mowers, snow blowers, recreational shooting and amplified ear-level music to mention just a few noisy personal activities. The key components of an effective workplace hearing conservation program are as follows:

1. Monitor the Noise Levels
2. Hearing Conservation Training
3. Personal Hearing Protective Devices (HPD’s)
4. Annual Audiometric Testing

Remember, your ears do not care whether the source of damaging noise comes from the machinery on your job or your personal music player - the resulting hearing loss is always permanent and irreversible - but it is also preventable. Be smart and always use proper hearing protection when exposed to loud sound while at work and when necessary, at home.

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