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If you work around oil well or oil drilling operations, your hearing is at risk. Statistics among workers worldwide show the long-term effects of the heavy equipment and noisy environment. In the U.S., more than 23,000 cases of occupational hearing were reported in 2007, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Intermountain West has areas that are rich in oil and gas with drilling operations that have lead to an economic boom. If you work around oil or gas drilling equipment in Utah's Uinta Basin or in Wyoming in communities such as Rock Springs, Riverton or Lander, you may be at greater risk for hearing loss.

In this article, we'll provide tips to help identify risks and steps you can take to proactively stop hearing loss.

What Is Noise-Induced Hearing Loss?

Noise-induced hearing loss is the result of being around sounds that are too loud for the ear to handle. The noise levels damage the structure of the inner ear.

Immediate symptoms may include:

- Feelings of pressure and fullness in the ear
- Hearing muffled sounds instead of crisp conversation
- Ringing in the ears

At first these symptoms may come and go, in a matter of minutes or hours. That doesn’t mean the effects of the loud noise are temporary. It just indicates there are enough healthy cells in your inner ear to compensate.

At first you will notice that you can’t hear high-pitched sounds, like bird songs. Or you can’t understand what someone is saying to you in a crowded room with background noise. Eventually you won’t be able to distinguish lower-pitched sounds. Over time, the hearing loss gets worse, cutting you off from conversation, music, and the audio parts of television, videos and movies.

How Can You Reduce the Risk?

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For oil and gas drilling workers in Utah and Wyoming, daily exposure to loud, heavy machinery comes with the job. The best way to reduce the risk of permanent hearing loss is by using hearing protection devices, referred to as HPDs.

Common HPDs are earplugs and earmuffs. They need to be worn correctly and consistently to do any good. Be sure to follow instructions so the HPD will be effective. A better solution are devices more scientifically designed to protect your hearing such as the new innovative hearing protection products.

Why Get Regular Hearing Checkups?

In the early stages, you might not realize your earning is being harmed. The best way to find out is to get a hearing checkup, and do a follow-up at least once a year.

A hearing professional has the tools and training to measure your ability to hear a range of sounds. When the tests are done on a regular basis, a doctor of audiology can accurately monitor the effects of loud machinery and work settings on your hearing. The practical way to do that is with regular hearing tests.

Don’t be a victim of noise-induced hearing loss. Get your hearing checked regularly to stop deterioration.

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