Industrial deafness is a type of hearing loss that is caused by industrial noise. Industrial noise is a term used to describe a noise that is pervading an environment and safety range. It’s more than just a sound that is irritating to you, as prolonged exposure can cause permanent hearing damage. Occupational and industrial noise is noise that is associated with a profession and can cause noise-induced hearing loss. Noise is hazardous to worker’s safety and health. Noise can also cause stress and raise blood pressure in addition to impairing hearing when exposed to noises of 85 decibels or over for the long term. IT can also cause work accidents by masking warning signals as well as hazards and getting in the way of workers’ ability to concentrate.
In cases of Industrial Hearing Loss, the inner ear becomes damaged as a result of exposure to intense sounds (noise). The inner ear has tufts on the cells which pick up noise and pass this information on to the brain for processing. They are like tiny hairs and can be compared with stands of grass in a field. The grass can withstand ordinary levels of wind and will stand up again when the wind has passed, but if the wind is too strong, the grass will blow down and not stand up again. Similarly, if the noise is too intense, the hairs in the inner ear will not stand up again and hearing loss will follow.
Causes of Industrial Deafness
Industrial deafness can be caused while working. You may be at risk for industrial deafness if: your working day is filled with intrusive noise, you have to raise your voice in order for other people to hear you at what is normally a conversational distance, you use power tools that make a lot of noise for more than 30 minutes a day, or if you work close to sounds of impact on a regular basis. Regular deafness can occur as part of aging, but industrial deafness, but people who work in environments were power tools are frequently used or loud noises occur are at risk for externally caused deafness. Sources of noise that go over 80 decibels will put you at risk for industrial deafness. There are four types of industrial deadness: tinnitus, acoustic trauma, permanent hearing loss, and temporary hearing loss. Extremely loud noises or exposure to constant noise can cause industrial deafness. Industries that can put you at risk for industrial deafness include construction, mining, engineering, electrical work and plumbing, factories, railway and transport workers, heavy machinery operators, the airline industry, agriculture, farm work, and more.
Symptoms of Industrial Deafness
- Lack of hearing in one ear or both
- Other people complain that you have the tv or the radio turned up too loud
- Conversation is either difficult to hear or impossible
- Trouble hearing someone on the other end of the telephone
- A ringing or other sound in your ears such as buzzing (tinnitus)
- Temporary or permanent lack of hearing
- Difficulty hearing speech when there is background noise
- Not being able to hear parts of or full sentences in conversation
- Difficulty hearing sounds like “T”, “D” and “S”
Treatment for Industrial Deafness
If you have any sort of hearing loss or believe that you may have industrial deafness, see an ear, nose and throat doctor. They will help you determine if you have industrial deafness. If you cannot hear certain frequencies in life, you may have this condition. The doctor will ask you about your history and your work, and conduct an examination or refer you to another doctor who may do a sound test and conduct either sound therapy or fit you with a hearing aid.
If the inner ear is too damaged, your doctor may recommend that you get a cochlear implant. This type of implant will bypass the ear’s damaged portions and stimulate the auditory nerve that passes sound along to the brain. An implant will send the information along to the electrodes placed in the inner ear to help adults with hearing impairment or deafness hear, although it may take some time to get used to interpreting these signals as sound.
There isn’t much that can be done for someone with industrial hearing loss to reverse the damage once it has occurred. Try to prevent industrial deafness before it happens by using aural protective gear such as ear plugs and ear defenders to protect your ears from damaging sound.