Does your job require you to be hooked to headphones for long hours? You are at high risk of noise induced hearing loss

What is noise induced hearing loss and what are the causes?

Our inner ear contains tiny and delicate sensory hair cells which act as receptors for our hearing as well as balancing system. They are present in the cochlea of the inner ear and are responsible for amplifying and transforming the sound vibrations into electrical signals and relaying them to the brain. When these hair cells are subjected to loud noise they are permanently damaged and unlike many animals, human beings are not capable of regenerating these damaged cells resulting in a permanent loss of hearing.

Ear experts put the safe hearing threshold at 85 decibels which is as loud as heavy traffic or a window air conditioner. A brief exposure to noise beyond this limit can cause temporary threshold shifts where your hearing gets muffled temporarily and is restored in a few days. This is the body’s protective mechanism for brief exposures to loud noises at a loud club or a concert.

But your ears cannot protect themselves over prolonged periods of noise exposure leading to permanent and irreversible damage. If you are exposed to loud noise at a younger age, you may not see an immediate effect but have a more severe hearing loss when you get older.

Who is at risk of noise induced hearing loss?

Are you a working professional like a telemarketer, call center employee or an industrial worker who is exposed to constant noise as a part of your job? Chances are you are one among the billion people at a high risk of noise induced hearing loss. Hearing experts say more than 1 billion people in the age group of 12 to 35 are at risk or have already undergone some irreversible damage to their ears due to exposure to loud sounds. The worrying part is noise induced hearing loss creeps in gradually, you do not lose your hearing dramatically overnight but over a prolonged period. During this time your favorite music starts sounding dimmer, your family and friends find it difficult to communicate with you and it hits your lifestyle and confidence before you realize that it is too late! Once lost, hearing does not come back. In the case of hearing loss, prevention is the only cure.

What is the impact of hearing loss on productivity?

Hearing loss can have long term repercussions on an organization and chances are these may go unnoticed for a while.

  • Hearing loss can result in poor communication resulting in drop in work efficiency. This is especially critical in field and factory setups where such inefficiencies can critically impact operations.
  • Hearing impairment can also result in tasks taking longer, drop in employee job satisfaction and feeling of isolation.
  • Hearing loss if unaddressed can have long term cognitive impact and this can lead to social isolation and depression.
  • Hearing issues can also affect balance as human ear is responsible for maintaining balance. This may prove risky for jobs requiring physical activity and can prove fatal if neglected.

It is estimated that globally every year about $600 billion is lost due to unaddressed hearing issues which is a huge loss at an individual, organization and macro level.

How can organizations and employers address this issue?

The World Health Organization is seeking employers to proactively address occupational hearing loss through the following –

  • Increase awareness about hearing loss and provide means for hearing protection
  • Implement early detection and treatment programs through ENT Specialists such as Dr Rao’s ENT to nip the problems at early stages
  • Make ear and hearing care an integral part of the Employee Health & Safety program and make regular screening mandatory
  • Educate HR teams to spot early symptoms and provide with basic screening tools

Consult Dr Rao's ENT - India's Best Hearing Specialists

How Dr Rao’s ENT can help tackle noise induced hearing loss in your organization?

Early detection of hearing loss is crucial for effective treatment and to prevent further deterioration. Fortunately, we have at our disposal many tools which can help us evaluate your hearing from time to time. Dr Rao’s ENT can provide tailor made screening packages based on your workplace specific needs.