Occupational hearing loss is damage to the inner ear from noise or vibrations due to certain types of jobs.
Over time, repeated exposure to loud noise and music can cause hearing loss.
Sounds above 80 decibels (dB, a measurement of the loudness or strength of sound vibration) may cause vibrations intense enough to damage the inner ear. This is more likely to happen if the sound continues for a long time.
A general rule of thumb is that if you need to shout to be heard, the sound is in the range that can damage hearing.
Some jobs carry a high risk for hearing loss, such as:
In the U.S., laws regulate the maximum job noise exposure that it is allowed. Both the length of exposure and decibel level are considered. If the sound is at or greater than the maximum levels recommended, you need to take steps to protect your hearing.
The main symptom is partial or complete hearing loss. The hearing loss will likely get worse over time with continued exposure.
Noise in the ear (tinnitus) may accompany hearing loss.
A physical exam will not show any specific changes in most cases. Tests that may be done include:
The hearing loss is very often permanent. The goals of treatment are to:
Using a hearing aid may help you understand speech. You can also use other devices to help with hearing loss.
Protecting your ears from any further damage and hearing loss is a key part of treatment. Protect your ears when you are exposed to loud noises. Wear ear plugs or earmuffs to protect against damage from loud equipment.
Be aware of risks connected with recreation such as shooting a gun, driving snowmobiles, or other, similar activities.
Learn how to protect your ears when listening to music at home or concerts.
Hearing loss is often permanent. The loss may get worse if you don't take measures to prevent further damage.
Call your health care provider if:
Hearing loss - occupational; Noise-induced hearing loss
Lonsbury-Martin BL, Martin GK. Noise-induced hearing loss. In: Cummings CW, Flint PW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Otolaryngology: Head & Neck Surgery. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 151.
Updated by: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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