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Recognize job-related hearing loss

Pennsylvania workers, as with workers anywhere, may be exposed to high-decibel noises as they perform their daily jobs. Though younger people are less concerned with hearing, they can also experience hearing loss if they work in loud environments.

Hearing loss occurs over time and does not usually just show up one day. One very common sign is a ringing in one or both ears or a high-pitched sound known as tinnitus. Some hearing loss is typically due to aging, but it can occur at a younger age if the ears have been subjected to loud machinery, music or engine noise. Other signs to be aware of are the inability to understand what is being said and needing to look at the speaker's face to hear them or having to increase the volume on the TV.

Where workplace medical insurance offers hearing tests, individuals can request to be tested if they believe that their hearing may be impaired. One former police officer recommends that, especially in high-decibel environments, workers take a hearing test each year. If hearing loss does occur, it will be documented and might allow the needed hearing aids to be provided as a workplace benefit. Hearing aids can be quite expensive and must be replaced frequently, and they are not commonly covered under most health insurance plans.

Hearing loss can lead to a lifetime of impairment and may require continuous testing and hearing devices. Some victims of impaired hearing are no longer able to perform their jobs, resulting in a loss of income. If the hearing loss was caused by a worker being injured on the job, it might be possible to file a claim for workers' compensation.

Source: Police One, "Preserving hearing in a high-decibel profession", Tim Dees, November 25, 2013

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