Hearing loss is more common in metal manufacturing than in other industries
Out of all the trades in the work industry, those who work with metals have the greatest risk of suffering from noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that cases of hearing loss in every primary metal manufacturing is significantly higher than chemical, food, or furniture manufacturing, construction, gas and oil extraction, along with several other fields. Working with metals is hazardous to your hearing due to how they are dealt with, processed and what their properties are.
It is crucial to include elements like characteristics of noise, job description, number of years employed, a timeline of audiometric changes, time-weighted averages (TWA) and peak levels of noise when assessing the standard threshold for an employee.
Noise-levels in metal manufacturing
The noise-levels in the metal manufacturing industry are higher than in other industries because of the complexity of the metals’ properties. Sound is transmitted through the air at 1,130 ft. per second. Sounds coming from steel are transmitted through the air at 16,000 ft. per second. Train robbers were able to hear the vibrations from the railroad tracks in order to determine whether a train was arriving before it came into view. Metals fluctuate in density, so the acoustics and boundaries play a role in how the sounds are transmitted.
When metal is chiseled, forged, hammered, pressed or stamped, the sounds produced can reach between 120 to 140 dB or more. When tools come in contact with metal, a signal will randomly appear and impact at different rates per second. There’s a wide range of sounds that come from metal - which are unpredictable - and usually higher in frequency response. The Committee on Hearing, Bioacoustics and Biomechanics (CHABA) claim that an extensive duration of signal noises are deemed more harmful than brief impulses.
Hearing abilities of steel workers
Two studies were conducted on steel workers who did not use, or occasionally used, protection for their hearing. It showed similarities in hearing loss, noting that intermittently protecting your hearing will not be effective. Out of all the employees who work around continuous noise, those who work in the metal industry have a higher rate of hearing loss and dissimilar hearing abilities in each ear. There were similar discoveries of hearing loss found in all noise-exposed employees, but those in the metal work industry have been impacted the most.
A brief history on hearing protection
According to the Acoustic Society of America, Greeks were the first people in recorded history to use hearing protection. It was not until 1864, during the Civil War, when the first hearing protection patent was legally certified by the government.
Starting in 1884, ear plugs and canal caps featuring a headband, were given to sailors and soldiers. In 1914, disposable plugs were patented, the 1970s saw an emergence if soft-foam ear plugs, and in the 1980s an electronic earmuff system became available. Generally, hearing protection was not worn by those in the manufacturing industry. Most industries did not provide hearing protection for workers in the U.S. until the Walsh-Healy Noise Standards of 1969 was authorized. In some industries, hearing protection was not properly used or never used.
Your hearing health
It’s important that all forms of hearing protection are properly worn and fitted in order to get the best benefits out of them. It is also vital for an employer to counsel the employee on the advantages of using hearing protection, along with the dangers of not using hearing protection on the job. Hearing protection that features a built-in form of communication, such as Bluetooth®, can be a good option for any place of business.
When verifying the cause of high-frequency hearing loss in an industry, the effect of how noise impacts an individual should be considered. The effects of noise varies from person to person, therefore it’s important to know what someone’s risk level is based on their job description, TWA, peak level data and record of one’s own changes in hearing. By advising which hearing protection should be used based on a person’s hearing abilities and occupation, it can help to preserve the hearing health that they have. Using a hearing aid device can help you hear more clearly and gain better awareness of your surroundings.
If you, or a loved one, have hearing loss due to your line of work, or any other reason, please contact us at Pure Sound Hearing Aids for a free hearing test and consultation. Our hearing instrument specialists will patiently work with you, or your loved one, to find the best hearing solutions.