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Factory workers reluctant to self-report hearing loss, study finds

Although it may not be the first work injury that comes to mind, hearing loss is actually a very serious occupational hazard that doesn't always get the attention it deserves. In fact, because it develops gradually, it is often overlooked entirely by employers who are more concerned with trying to prevent more immediate and costly workplace injuries.

And among factory workers who endure long periods of work in loud environments, misunderstanding about hearing loss abounds. A new study involving nearly 2,700 factory workers found that 76 percent of them believed they had either "excellent" or "good" hearing. In reality, though, a staggering 42 percent of those individuals suffered from hearing loss.

The researchers involved in the study concluded that part of the problem with factory workers failing to report their condition was a lack of self-reporting measures and reliable tools to provide feedback on a person's hearing ability.

Hearing loss is a significant problem in industrial workplaces throughout the United States. Approximately 5.7 million workers are exposed to dangerous noise levels every year.

Interestingly, while the study noted other factors that could have an effect on hearing loss in industrial workers, it also identified a correlation between increased hearing loss and other worker characteristics, including lower high school graduation rates, longer tenures at factories and less reliance upon hearing protection equipment.

In total, workers in the study admitted to using the protective equipment only 69 to 80 percent of the time when on the job.

Employers whose employees are routinely exposed to dangerous noise levels may want to consider implementing policies and programs that introduce greater hearing protection, and educate workers on the importance of preventing this devastating work injury.

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


EHS Today, "Study: Factory workers fail to self-report hearing loss," Laura Walter, July 2, 2012

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