Hearing loss is a problem that affects millions of people all over the world. While it's easy to attribute hearing loss to age, genetics or failing to protect one's ears during activities involving loud noises, hearing loss is actually a common occupational hazard.
Below are ten of the worst occupations you can have if you want to protect your ears and keep your hearing.
Airport Ground Staff
The loud noise generated by an airplane engine is one of the worst occupational hazards you could encounter. The sound of a plane's engine can reach a level of 140 decibels. Any noise above 80 decibels is enough to damage your hearing, so having to listen to noise almost twice as loud for 40 hours a week is obviously very dangerous for your hearing.
If you work at the St. George, Cedar City, or other airports, take full precautions to protect your hearing. Occupations at risk may include aircraft marshals, baggage handlers, drivers, fuelers, and other ground crew. Pilots, flight attendants, and ramp attendants should also use hearing protection when safe to do so.
Musicians of all kinds are routinely exposed to loud noises. The music created by the string and percussion sections of a symphony orchestra averages about 90 decibels. At its loudest, the music of a full orchestra is about 130 decibels.
Rock bands are smaller than any orchestra, but their music still averages out at 100 decibels. Naturally, hearing loss at relatively young ages is a common problem for musicians, with one study showing that 42 percent of orchestra members suffer from hearing loss.
In additions to musicians, other occupations that work at concert venues, bars, and dance clubs such as DJs, security, bartenders, wait staff are all at risk.
Construction workers are routinely exposed to machinery that generates noise of 90 decibels or higher. Construction workers can be exposed to drills, pounding, jackhammers, and other loud noises that cause hearing loss if protection isn't worn on the job.
Mowers, blowers, weed whackers, chainsaws, and trimmers all emit loud noises. Routine exposure without hearing protection is very hard on the ears.
Mining is big business in Utah but loud, noisy heavy equipment and machinery in confined, reverberating environments causes hearing problems. Based on data from the Center for Disease Control, 49% of male miners are predicted to have a hearing impairment by age 50. This compares with 9% of the general public. The figure rises to 70% by 60 years of age.
Factory work accounts for the largest number of occupational hearing loss in the country. Factory workers are routinely exposed to constant noises at 90 decibels or higher. Many workers compensate for this by wearing ear plugs or some other kind of protection, but they are still around a constant source of loud noise for eight hours at a time, and that will take its toll on anybody.
Training and practicing with firearms is part of the job in law enforcement. Almost all firearms create noise when discharged that is over the 140 decibel level. Using hearing protection and avoiding reverberant noise environments where possible when firing helps preserve hearing.
Military personnel can be even at greater risk as heavy artillery and explosives are not good on the ears. Noise-induced hearing loss is a primary disability among U.S. military personnel. According to Deafness Research Foundation, up to 65% of troops returning from combat in Afghanistan suffer from noise-induced hearing loss.
Firefighters and Paramedics - as well as police officers - are also routinely exposed to loud vehicles and even louder sirens. These sirens are meant to be heard for several blocks, so being right next to them when they are turned on definitely takes its toll over time.
Transit Train Operator
Not only does a constant exposure to a rumbling train lead to hearing loss for transit train operators, but the sound of a train's horn is between 96 and 110 decibels. That may not be very loud compared to airplane engines or the loudest orchestras, but it is still more than enough to damage one's hearing.
A single rotor helicopter creates noises between 80 and 102 decibels for those in the cockpit. A helicopter pilot is exposed to this noise continuously during a flight, which is more than enough to cause hearing loss if protection isn't worn.
If you or a loved one works in a higher risk occupation, it's important to take preventative steps to protect your ears and have regular hearing exams. Early detection of hearing loss is key to preserve hearing.