EHSDA Shorts: Why is Occupational Hearing Loss A Big Problem for Worksites?

In this installment of EHSDA Shorts, Renée Lefrançois, M.Sc.(A), Reg. CASLPO, CAOHC PS/A, Director of Audiology, SHOEBOX Ltd., discusses why occupational hearing loss is a big problem for worksites.

This clip was taken from a webinar titled “Hearing Conservation: Hear From the Experts in Tablet-Based Hearing Testing Solutions” as part of the EHS Daily Advisor NOW: Safety Culture virtual event. The full session is available for FREE on-demand here.

This webinar was sponsored by Shoebox.

Transcript (edited for clarity):

Question: Why is occupational hearing loss a big problem for worksites:

Lefrançois: So prevalence of hearing loss in the U.S., NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has been reporting that 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise and it is the third most chronic adult physical condition that impacts quality of life in terms of functionality. I know that we’re preaching to the choir, and this comes as no surprise to those of you on the call, but we really want to keep this top of mind because we know that 22 million people are not being tested on a regular basis. And by providing different options and employee-friendly solutions, we’re able to increase that number and get all of us in the industry closer to 100% of those who need testing. One in eight workers have been shown to have hearing difficulty and half of those are being shown to be due to occupational exposure. Of course, occupational exposure may not be the sole contributing factor, but if it is a contributing factor at all, it merits attention and potential adaptations in the workplace or in hearing protection.

So hearing loss is a concern for very obvious reasons including the ability to communicate, the ability to hear in soft environments, even though you might have ringing in the ears or tinnitus. But research over the past 10 years has really exploded in terms of the impact that hearing has on other aspects of life and quality of life so maintaining relationships can be quite challenging due to mistakes and understanding, but also the increased effort that is required in communicating with people with hearing loss. That can be tiresome and sometimes frustrating [with] health complications long term. Hearing loss untreated has been linked to cognitive decline, mental health such as depression and anxiety, but even more increase in falls and longer hospitalizations in later life, so the [World Health Organization] has identified hearing loss in midlife. We’re talking about above the age of 40 is the highest modifiable factor for long-term health in terms of what I just mentioned with mental health, cognitive abilities, and hospitalizations. And so waiting until these individuals are older in age is missing the mark, we need to address this in midlife, which is where a lot of the employees that you oversee are at right now. And, not to mention workplace safety, we use sound for awareness localization and communication so we want to optimize that for all employees regardless of their hearing levels.