Occupational Hearing Loss: The 8 Loudest Industries

Construction worker wearing earplugs

While considering the several considerations that go into your career choice, we bet that your long-term hearing health is fairly low on the priority list—if it’s there at all. We understand.

And although we don’t think that your future ability to hear should determine your career choice, we do think you should be mindful of the risk—so that you can utilize proper hearing protection and conform to the best practices to conserve your hearing.

As reported by the CDC, occupational hearing loss is one of the most prevalent occupational health problems in the United States. Twenty-two million individuals are exposed to harmful noise levels at work, and an estimated $242 million is expended annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss.

So this isn’t a small problem; the personal and social consequences are substantial.

If you decide to pursue one of the following eight careers—or currently work in one—take additional precaution to protect your hearing.

Here are 8 of the loudest industries.

1. Military – Virtually all firearms can generate 140 decibels (dB) of noise. This is substantially above the safe threshold of 85 dB, and has the potential to generate instant and permanent hearing damage. Explosions and other sounds of combat add to the danger. This is why hearing loss and other hearing complications represent the most widespread injuries for veterans.

2. Music – Rock concerts can reach over 110 decibels, exposing musicians to hours of continually damaging noise. That explains why research has shown that musicians are four times more likely to develop noise-induced hearing loss—and 57 percent more likely to suffer from tinnitus—than other people.

3. Manufacturing – According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hearing loss is the most regularly documented work-related condition in manufacturing. Manufacturing machinery can reach decibel levels of well over 100.

4. Carpentry – As with manufacturing, carpenters use equipment that can reach dangerous decibel levels. A power saw alone can reach 110 dB.

5. Aviation – A jet take-off at 25 meters registers at approximately 140-150 decibels. The decibel level decreases as distance increases, but pilots and airport staff should protect against the noise.

6. Emergency Response – Ambulance and fire engine sirens can generate decibel levels of over 130. In fact, a group of firefighters has recently taken legal action against a siren manufacturer after suffering from hearing loss on the job.

7. Farming – Some tractors and agricultural machinery can reach well over 100 decibels. Farm workers are encouraged to keep machinery running smoothly, to take routine breaks from the noise, and to use hearing protection.

8. Racing – The sound of a single race car can reach over 120 decibels, and a race in full action can reach 140. Participants, fans, and workers at racing events are all at risk for developing hearing loss.

Keep in mind, extended exposure to any noise above 85 decibels increases your risk for acquiring hearing loss. If you end up in a high-volume career, take these three precautions (if you can’t avoid the source of the noise):

  1. Increase your distance from the sound source when feasible
  2. Take periodic rest breaks from the sound to limit time of exposure
  3. Wear custom earplugs to limit volume

Taking these three simple steps (particularly # 3) will allow you to pursue the career you prefer without having to give up your ability to hear later in life—because wearing earplugs now is better than wearing hearing aids later.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.