Surprising occupations at risk of hearing loss

Hospitality is a profession that may cause hearing loss

Everyone knows that some occupations are more prone than others to causing hearing loss. But you might be surprised by some of the professions on the list.

We take a look at some of the unexpected occupations that could put you at risk of premature hearing loss.

Farmers

Life in the country seems idyllic, but farm machinery can be very noisy indeed. Some noisemakers are obvious: Tractors (95-100 dB), Orchard Sprayers (85-100 dB), Chainsaws (105-120 dB).

And there are other things which are not obvious (unless you’re a farmer). Did you know that a pig shed at feeding time can reach up to 105 dB in noise?

Farming is often a multi-generational occupation which means children may be exposed to high noise levels at a young age.

There are some great resources especially tailored to our farming families, including practical tips on mitigating noise and reducing exposure on the Farmer Health web site.

Teachers

From the ear-splitting whistle wielded by the sports teacher (115 dB) to music teachers who face a near constant 85 dB all day in their classrooms – teachers do need to take care of their hearing.

And it’s not just the teachers who suffer in noisy environment, students also notice their education affected:

Australian students report high levels of noise and disruption in their classroom and at rates worse than the US or Britain. It’s a factor which education experts say is linked to low levels of literacy and numeracy and is contributing to the country’s worsening performance.

Silence in the classroom can boost children’s exam results, improve their self-esteem and cut down on bad behaviour, according to new research.

Hospitality Workers

Noisy nightclubs and concert venues are prime areas where hearing loss might occur. So spare a thought to the wait staff (bartenders, servers, hostesses, and kitchen workers) and bouncers in clubs and bars. They are frequently exposed to an average of 100 decibels (dB) for several hours.

The average daily noise exposure of these employees, who worked 20 hours a week on average, was 92 decibels, the study revealed. Between 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m., the noise levels in the clubs rose by an average of 7 decibels. A 3-decibel increase is akin to doubling the sound pressure level.

Noise exposure greater than 85 decibels for eight hours a day can lead to permanent hearing loss.

Wait staff in restaurants are also at risk.

Roslyn Grundy, co-editor of The Age Good Food Guide 2014 , says noise is a constant source of annoyance to Guide users and many ask for “quiet restaurant” recommendations. “We get a lot of feedback from people saying that at some places, they can’t hear the conversation at their own table, let alone eavesdrop on the person next to them,” she says.

Dentists and Dental Technicians

The noise produced by a high-speed turbine drill can expose dentists to up to  115 dB during their workday.

The good news is the noise of handpieces and ultrasonic scalers are generally between 60-99 decibels but long term exposure may result in sensorineural hearing loss.

A study published in 2016 reveal the results from sound level measurements and questionnaire responses indicate that dentists are a population that could be placing their hearing health at risk in a typical daily work environment with qualitative analysis showing a higher percentage of hearing loss among the dentists’ group as compared with their control counterparts.

What To Do

  • Be aware of the noise hazards in your workplace
  • Where possible, look at low-noise versions of the equipment
  • If that is not possible, then look at ways to protect your hearing. This might take the form of
    • limiting duration of exposure or
    • wearing hearing protection
  • Have your hearing tested to establish a baseline of the status
  • Have a hearing test every decade up to the age of 50 and then every five years thereafter.
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