Believe it or not, hearing loss and your workplace may have more of a reciprocal relationship than you might realize. Depending on your industry, untreated hearing loss may be adversely affecting your job, your job may be affecting your hearing, or you may be experiencing a cycle of both. It is important to be aware of how the environment of your workplace and your hearing interact with each other.
Understanding this relationship can help to protect your hearing, and your job!
When Your Work Affects Your Hearing
Many workplaces, including construction sites, bars, airports and even the New York Stock Exchange are extremely noisy. Exposing yourself to these occupation noises on a day-in and day-out basis put you at risk for developing noise induced hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss can affect anyone at any age, and is a permanent and irreversible hearing impairment. Many workplaces have done well to inform their employees of the importance of hearing protection and provide them with the proper equipment while on the job. Other workplaces have not been so successful. For example, shocking recent studies have found that preschool teachers are actually at a very high risk for developing hearing loss, and are most often not offered hearing protection while on the job (https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-06-hearing-related-problems-common-preschool-teachers.html).
Even workers who are required to wear hearing protection on the job can be at risk. Many workers report experiencing “acoustical confusion”, meaning their hearing protection is keeping them from hearing important job-related sounds. An example of this could be machine malfunctions occurring because mechanics or engineers could not hear the warning signs. Because of this, workers tend to remove their hearing protection or alter it in order to better complete their jobs (https://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/16903-solving-hearing-protection-problems).
When Your Hearing Affects Your Work
For more hands on jobs such as construction, it is imperative that workers have adequate hearing in order to be able to identify various risks and keep themselves out of harm’s way. Construction workers and mechanics are not the only ones who’s hearing loss affects their ability to do their job.
Recent studies have found that people with untreated hearing loss are 3.21 times more likely to achieve lower educational attainment, 1.5 times more likely to earn a low income (less than $20,000 per year) and about 2 times more likely to experience unemployment than peers without hearing loss (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4466103/). Other studies have found that workers with severe hearing loss earn on average about $14,000 less per year than their peers with milder hearing losses. Luckily, these studies also show that using hearing aids has the potential to mitigate the lost earning potential caused by hearing aids (https://esteemhearing.com/about-hearing-loss/articles/hearing-loss-hindering-career-potential/).
It’s not difficult to see how untreated hearing loss can cause lower earning potential. One of the earliest signs of hearing loss is feeling that you have the “ability to hear, just not understand”. This happens because with hearing loss, the ability to identify minuscule differences in speech such as the “p” and “b” sounds are one of the first things to go. Not being able to differentiate these sounds can make conversations difficult. For example, if your manager told you to meet at 7am and you heard 11am, and not to go over $14,000 for a contract and your heard $40,000, you are probably not going to be first in line for the next promotion.
Finding Hearing Harmony at Work
Whether you feel you work somewhere noisy and need more adequate hearing protection, or are starting to worry about understanding your conversations at work, it is important to get the proper interventions necessary to help you be successful in your job.
Today, there are many remarkable hearing protection devices that simultaneously dull dangerous noise levels, while still allowing you to hear speech and other softer sounds around you. If you work in a noisy environment, hearing protection is your right. Talk to your employer regarding the hearing protection practices at your workplace.
Same goes for hearing aids. If conversations at work are becoming more difficult or you find yourself misunderstanding more on the job, hearing may be the issue. Schedule a hearing test with us at Hearing Aid Associates to determine what hearing healthcare plan is right for you.