Chubb’s Claims department includes a team of dedicated registered nurse professionals with extensive experience helping businesses and organizations address health and safety issues. Our nursing team also supports employees as they recover from injury and illness — and return to work. In the spirit of promoting safe and healthy workplaces, our medical specialists developed this edition of Chubb HealthBeat to help your business and employees understand and prevent hearing loss.
In the U.S., hearing loss in adults is one of the most common chronic health conditions, trailing just behind high blood pressure and arthritis. Approximately 15% of Americans age 18 and older report some difficulty in hearing.
By itself, hearing loss is debilitating and can lower the quality of one’s life, and the impacts of hearing loss can go much further. Hearing loss is associated with cognitive decline, mental health problems, and heart disease.
Hearing loss can also affect one’s ability to work; people with hearing loss have a higher rate of unemployment than those with normal hearing. The loss of hearing can also impact safety at the workplace. For instance, it may be more difficult to hear a smoke alarm, safety announcement, or approaching vehicle. Workers with hearing loss have a higher incidence of workplace injuries.
Occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related medical condition in our nation. An estimated 24% of cases of hearing loss can be attributed to causes at the workplace, which include:
In addition, hearing loss can be caused by age and inherited conditions. These factors can worsen work-related hearing loss.
Employees at any workplace with loud or steady noise are at risk for hearing loss. Businesses in the following industries should be especially aware of work-related hearing loss and the need to take preventive actions:
There are three primary categories of hearing loss, which include:
A hearing test conducted by an audiologist or other hearing specialist can help diagnose the type of hearing loss and determine the best course of treatment.
Hearing loss can be experienced in several ways, including:
Conductive hearing loss may also be indicated by ear pain and fluid in the ear.
Noise-induced hearing loss may be accompanied by tinnitus, a condition that produces ringing or other phantom sounds in the ears. Hearing loss can also cause dizziness and difficulty balancing.
While most hearing loss is irreversible, some types of hearing loss are preventable. The risk of occupational, noise-induced hearing loss can be mitigated by reducing noise exposure in the workplace. For workplaces with significant noise levels, employers must implement a hearing conservation program in compliance with regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Hearing conservation programs include one or more of the following components:
In addition, as part of an OSHA-compliant hearing conservation program, businesses are required to provide annual hearing exams to employees. measure noise levels, and evaluate noise controls. Employees should also be trained about hearing safety and how to use hearing protection equipment.
As needed depending on the type of business, workers should also be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) and trained to prevent exposure to ototoxic chemicals.
Businesses should take steps to accommodate any employee who has hearing loss — whether work-related or not. Accommodations may be required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Ways to support employees with hearing loss include:
CDC | NIOSH – Noise and Occupational Hearing Loss
OSHA – Occupational Noise Exposure
Hearing Health Foundation – Workplace Hearing Loss
We keep you informed – and your business protected – with these helpful articles.