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Occupational hearing loss in the manufacturing sector

Occupational hearing loss is a serious problem for manufacturing workers in Minnesota and around the country. According to information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 72 percent of workers with occupational hearing losses that are considered recordable by OSHA are employed in the manufacturing sector. Annually, about 17,700 manufacturing workers report that they have suffered from occupational hearing loss.

It is important to note that the recordable cases only account for workers who have sustained such severe injuries that they have become hearing-impaired. In order to be recordable, the cause of a worker's hearing loss must have been traced back to the work environment. Because most occupational hearing loss occurs gradually, there may be many more workers with measurable hearing loss each year who are not yet hearing-impaired.

There are some cases where a traumatic exposure to loud noises at work can cause an immediate loss of hearing. However, most occupational hearing loss will take place over decades of repeated exposure to unsafe decibel levels. A worker is most at risk for hearing loss during the first 10 years of exposure. Hearing loss will occur at a faster rate during that time. After the first 10 years, continued noise exposure could result in a worker losing the ability to understand speech.

Many manufacturing workers with occupational hearing loss are unaware that they have enough of a problem to be considered hearing-impaired. Those who believe that they may have suffered from these kinds of workplace injuries might want to speak with an attorney who may be able to help the worker to gather the appropriate evidence to prove that the hearing loss is work-related so that a workers' compensation claim can be filed and benefits obtained.

Source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, "Occupationally-Induced Hearing Loss", accessed on Jan. 25, 2015

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