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CDC learning more about occupational hearing loss

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health have undertaken a project to gather information on hearing loss in the workplace. They started the study in 2009 and by 2014 had compiled information from 18 different providers. These providers submitted data on more than 10.3 million private audiograms along with the de-identified demographic data. Colorado readers may be interested occupational hearing loss in what this extensive surveillance has uncovered.

There are primarily two types of workplace hearing loss. The first is the result of loud noise. Any noise at or exceeding a decibel level of 85 is considered loud. Another way of looking at it is if the noise requires two people standing about an arm's length away from each other to raise their voices during a conversation, the noise is loud. Approximately 22 million workers are subjected to noise above 85 decibels every year.

The second type of occupational hearing loss is due to exposure to ototoxic chemicals. These include styrene and trichloroethylene that are used as solvents, heavy metals like mercury and lead, and asphyxiants such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen cyanide. It is not known how many workers are exposed to these chemicals in the course of their jobs.

Through the surveillance, the CDC hopes to learn more about the industries that expose workers to the risk of occupational hearing loss. They also hope to monitor trends to determine if improvements are being made to protect employee and contractor hearing. Although job-related hearing loss is not necessarily painful or life threatening, a worker who has experienced a degradation of hearing may want to consult an attorney to learn more about how workers' compensation may be able to help with hearing aids or hearing rehabilitation.

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