By now you’ve probably met dozens of patient suffering from “can you repeat that?” syndrome. Whether it’s an elder whose hearing is in decline, or an eager teen rocking out to their music too loud, hearing loss has become a major issue within the last few decades. However according to the Center for Disease Control, work-related hearing loss is actually is the most common work-related injury with approximately 22 million workers exposed annually to hazardous levels of occupational noise.
Work-Related Hearing Loss
A recent CNN article followed a 55-year-old construction worker Jeff Ammon, as he dealt with the lasting effects of his construction career of 32 years. Pain and ringing would plague Ammons long after getting home from the job site, and medication hasn’t had a positive impact either.
“The medication to address pain has not been very successful at all. … I’m also on some medication for stress, anxiety and depression,” he said. “It has isolated me from society,” he told CNN. Ammons represents one of the millions suffering from work-related hearing loss.
The New Technology
There have been a variety of different ways that both manufacturers and healthcare providers have been working to combat work-related hearing loss. One of the biggest prevention tactics, and I’m sure you know it by heart, is to stay away from loud noise. Although it’s hard to do when it’s a part of your career, many physicians will still encourage other ways to prevent harm.
Soundproof headphones and earplugs are also on the rise and are a great recommendation for you to give your patients. For general industry workers who are exposed to noise for eight hours a day at or above a time-weighted average of 85 decibels, OSHA requires employers to provide notification, audiometric testing and free hearing protectors.
The CDC is also implementing a Buy Quiet campaign in which employers are encouraged to buy quieter machinery to prevent work-related hearing loss.
Getting Patients to Listen
Many patients won’t even realize that they have an issue. When you deal with loud noise in your entire career, it’s easy to get used to a muffled sense of sound, so it’s important to test your patient’s hearing during an exam. If they do have an issue, be sure to explain the repercussions that could impact them in the near future. Also, encourage patients to ask their employers about investing in quieter machinery or other hearing prevention equipment. A happy patient means a healthier patient. Work-related hearing loss is no joke, and it’s something that your patient needs to be aware of.