According to a report from the National Occupational Research Agenda, a subdivision of OSHA in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is the top-recorded occupational illness in manufacturing, accounting for one in every nine reported cases. With 16 million people working in manufacturing in the U.S., or approximately 13 percent of the American workforce, hearing loss affected 17,700 out of 59,100 workers in 2010.
For hearing loss to be considered reportable under OSHA standards, hearing loss as a work injury must have occurred on the job and be severe enough that the worker is considered hearing impaired. According to the report, the highest and most severe incidence of hearing loss occurs during a worker’s first decade on the job, later affecting their ability to comprehend human speech readily and therefore interact efficiently during mid- and late-career postings and positions.
Because hearing loss caused by ongoing exposure to high levels of noise is gradual and cumulative, many workers may be unaware their hearing is being compromised. Occasionally, exposure to sudden, sharp noises may cause hearing loss immediately. Seventy-two percent of reportable cases of work-related hearing loss occurred in the manufacturing sector in 2010. Thousands more incipient cases may exist, but are not considered reportable due to not being demonstrably hearing impaired.
A worker affected by hearing loss due to their work environment might be able to file a worker’s compensation claim, depending on the circumstances of their injury. If repetitive injuries such as ongoing exposure to detrimental sound levels are evident, the worker might receive benefits for related medical costs or loss of income as a result of their decreased ability to complete tasks. An attorney might work with an employee should any issues crop up during the filing process.