What is occupational deafness?
Occupational deafness is one of the most prevalent occupational disease in Hong Kong. It is a type of sensorineural hearing loss that caused by prolonged exposure to high level of noise at work. Exposure to overly loud noise causes damage to the auditory cells of the cochlea. These impaired auditory cells, however, could not regrow or recover with current medical options. Occupational deafness, therefore, is irreversible and untreatable.
Occupations particularly at risk for occupational deafness are as follows:
- Factory workers
- Heavy industry workers
- Construction workers
- Entertainment industry professionals
- Slaughterhouse worker
The impact of hearing loss on various aspects
- Dizziness and/ or headache
- Increased stress level
- Emotional disturbance
- Withdrawal of personal engagement
- Disturbed family and social life
- Threatened personal and work safety
Methods to effectively protect hearing
Occupational deafness is irreversible and incurable, thus developing a good safety and health practice is crucial to its prevention:
- Avoid prolonged exposure to high-level of noise. If exposure to noisy environment is inevitable at work, one should:
- Properly wear hearing protection devices, such as earplugs or earmuffs;
- Arrange regular rest at work;
- Arrange regular alternation in work position.
- Perform annual hearing consultation. Since symptoms of occupational deafness can be unnoticeable at the early stage, early detection and rehabilitation are essential to prevent further hearing deterioration.
- Avoid ear picking. In fact, earwax gets out of the ear naturally. Earwax as well protects the ear from foreign particles and irritation. Hence, it is unnecessary to remove earwax by oneself. Inappropriate home removal of earwax may lead to ear infection, and possibly hearing loss. Consult a physician, if suspect of excessive earwax buildup.
Noise exposure - permissible level and duration