Whether an individual is exposed to a single loud noise or moderate noise over time, the result can be permanent hearing loss. This means that the damage cannot be reversed either through surgery or by the use of a hearing aid. However, it may be possible to prevent such damage before it occurs. OSHA recommends that a worker not be exposed to noises louder than 85 decibels per eight-hour shift as loud noise can also make it harder to communicate on a construction job site.
How can a worker be sure that he or she is not being exposed to excess noise? This may be accomplished through the use of a device called a noise dosimeter, which determines the average noise level encountered throughout the day or during a particular task. Another tool used is a sound level meter, which is positioned near equipment at an average worker's ear level. If a device is too loud, it is marked with a warning sticker.
It is important that workers take their hearing seriously. As hearing loss on construction sites can be gradual and painless, it is often called a stealth injury. Side effects may include social isolation as it can be harder to hear or talk to others around them. Individuals who are exposed to loud noises may also be more likely to develop heart disease.
While workers' compensation benefits may be available to those who suffer workplace injuries, occupational diseases such as hearing loss may be covered as well. A worker who has suffered a hearing loss due to job conditions may want to have the assistance of an attorney when preparing and filing the required claim.