If you are working in the construction industry in or around Kansas City, noise is likely such a part of your work environment that you accept it without a second thought. Did you know that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a significant percentage of the work-related illnesses reported nationwide, including Missouri, involves occupational hearing loss? Hearing loss is irreversible, but it is preventable.
Excessive exposure to loud noise or chemicals classified as ototoxic typically causes occupational hearing loss. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates that employers must prevent noise exposure at sound levels that exceed an average of 85 decibels in an eight-hour time-weighted period.
Hearing loss puts your life at risk
Hearing loss increases the chances of workplace accidents happening because it will reduce your situational awareness and prevent you from hearing signals or sirens that are there to warn you of danger. Under safety standards, any noise measuring 85dB or higher is hazardous. Obviously, you will not walk around testing the noise levels at work, but if you cannot hear a co-worker's normal voice from an arm's length away, the noise is hazardous.
Do you have any telltale signs of hearing loss?
Occupational hearing loss typically develops over time, and you might not even realize that you are gradually growing less aware of the sounds around you. Along with hearing loss, you could develop tinnitus, which is a constant ringing in your ears that further jeopardizes your ability to hear. If you keep a look out for any of the following red flags, you might prevent total hearing loss:
- Do you miss a lot of what others say in conversations that involve several people?
- Do you frequently ask people to repeat what they said by saying "pardon?" and "what?"
- Do you often misunderstand what others say?
- Do you make mistakes at work because you misheard instructions?
- Do you fail to hear the ring of a telephone or other similar sounds made by equipment alarms?
- Do you want to ask your co-workers, friends and family to stop mumbling and speak louder?
- Do you find that you must turn the television up higher than what is comfortable for your family members?
- Do you avoid get-togethers in pubs or events in noisy environments?
- Do you find yourself straining to hear conversations, instructions or warning signals?
Occupational hearing loss is preventable. Make sure you never work without earplugs or earmuffs in noisy environments. You can insist on annual hearing tests and seek medical treatment at the first signs of hearing loss. If you leave it unaddressed, you might have difficulty linking your hearing loss with your occupation years down the line.
The Missouri workers' compensation system might cover your medical expenses, and if the claims process seems a daunting prospect, help is available. You can utilize the skills of an attorney who has experience in dealing with workers' compensation benefits claims and working to obtain maximum benefits under applicable laws.