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Hearing loss affects about 22 million American workers annually

Workers across Alabama and the United States are suffering hearing loss at escalating rates, and a combination of factors may be to blame. According to PBS, many American workers are developing auditory problems because businesses either do not have the money to pay for low-volume machinery and appropriate protective equipment, or because they are failing to properly enforce policies intended to protect the ears in the workplace.

Employees and employers in particularly loud work environments, per one study, are more likely to take proper precautions, or enforce proper precautionary measures, than those in settings where risks are less apparent. As a result, those who work in environments where noise is considered “moderate” face a higher risk of suffering work-related hearing loss than those in settings where it is considered “severe.” The rising number of reported hearing-loss cases across all work environments may also be attributed to the fact that many of the regulations put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration have not been updated for decades and do not take into account noise that may come from outside the jobsite.

To combat the growing health problem and reduce the roughly $242 million spent on hearing loss-related workers’ compensation costs in the United States each year, the U.S. Department of Labor is seeking suggestions from the public. The organization is hopeful that in time, new technology and more stringent noise regulations will reduce the number of American employees suffering hearing loss, many of whom work within the construction, manufacturing and mining fields.

While suffering hearing loss is a high price for an employee to pay to make a living, OSHA reports that America’s employers, too, are footing a growing bill. In addition to hearing disability-related workers’ compensation costs, they paid more than $1 million in penalties for failing to take action to prevent hearing loss in 2015. 

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