Hearing Health in the Workplace
Hearing health is essential to a productive career and on-the-job focus. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASLHA) finds that more companies recognize that hearing health is key to overall employee health and have programs to reduce noise-exposure, promote screening and build general awareness.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that about 26 million Americans ages 20–69 have high-frequency hearing loss from exposure to loud noises at work or through leisure activities. Employers whose employees face decibel levels above 85 decibels in their workplace do issue and require hearing protection, but most programs stop there. In reality, noise-exposure can come from all sources both at home and at work. More recently, some companies are talking about risk of noise-exposure for employees outside of work and even go as far as offer disposable ear plugs for use at concerts and sporting events.
Hearing loss can go undiagnosed for many years; in fact studies show up to 7 years. During this time, the problem only worsens. The harder conversations become the harder it is to communicate at work – whether that is on the phone or in a meeting. Productivity can be lost and frustrations can even build among fellow co-workers. Hearing loss is a natural part of the aging process but treatable in most cases. The key is to monitor and catch early.
What sounds are dangerous? What ear protection can be used? What do I do if I suspect a problem? We all have these questions. Having a general awareness of what hearing loss is and how it happens is also key to reducing its impact. Knowing what resources are available can also help someone with a problem more easily turn for help. Some companies are including educational content specific to hearing loss in their health programs.
Health hearing can become part of your company’s culture Talk to your HR team about what programs and company resources are available to promote hearing health.