Many workers in Maryland are exposed to hazardous noise levels when they are on the job. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, about 22 million workers in the United States are affected by hazardous noise. Over time, exposure to high noise levels can cause hearing loss and tinnitus.
NIOSH has published a study on hazardous noise and hearing difficulty in different U.S. industries. The study showed that agriculture, fishing and hunting and forestry workers have the highest risk for hearing loss and tinnitus. Another industry that has a relatively high occurrence of both hearing difficulty and tinnitus is manufacturing. Architecture and engineering workers have a high risk of tinnitus while scientists and personal care workers have a high risk of hearing difficulty.
The NIOSH study pointed out that 7 percent of workers have hearing difficulty and 5 percent of workers have tinnitus even though they have never been exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace. Workers who have been exposed to hazardous noise in the workplace are much more likely to have one or both of these conditions. Among workers exposed to hazardous noise, 23 percent have hearing difficulty, 15 percent have tinnitus and 9 percent have both of these conditions.
Work-related hearing difficulty is a condition that often develops gradually. Because hearing difficulty comes on slowly, it can sometimes be difficult to prove that a worker’s hearing loss was caused by a work environment. While workers’ compensation is more commonly associated with workplace injuries, it is also designed for victims of occupational illnesses or diseases as well. The assistance of an attorney who has experience in this area of law can often be advisable for workers who are trying to document the connection between workplace conditions and the illness.