Approximately twenty-two million workers are exposed to hazardous noise in the United States alone, and this exposure to loud noise, as well as ototoxic chemicals, can create permanent hearing loss. Though workplaces may be the cause of hearing loss, they are also one of the places where hearing is most crucial. Adequate hearing in the workplace is necessary for safety, performance, and enjoyment, often in ways that may be surprising.
Proper hearing in the workplace is essential for safety. We may not be aware of the many ways that our hearing is used to keep us safe in everyday life, including our jobs. Our sense of hearing is often the first line of defense against danger, and some suppose that we have developed an acute sense of hearing in order to become aware of threats that are unseen. Imagine a person at risk of being attacked by a tiger. Though the tiger is out of sight, our ears may help us hear the crunching of twigs beneath a tiger’s feet before it is ready to pounce.
In the same way, our sense of hearing can sensitize us to dangerous events in the workplace before we can see them. One of the most common safety measures requiring the sense of hearing is a fire alarm. Some are loud enough for those with hearing loss to become aware of the sound, but others may be too quiet or at a frequency out of the hearing range. Other dangers in the workplace may be sudden, and our ears can prompt us to turn in the direction of the dangerous event and to avoid it. Without adequate hearing in the workplace, minor dangers can become major threats.
Not only is our own personal safety affected by our ability to hear, but our performance on the job may be affected, as well. The ability to listen, communicate, and respond to instructions is essential to most jobs. If a coworker or supervisor needs to communicate complicated details of a task to you, hearing is necessary to carry on a clear conversation. You may have had an experience of miscommunication or crossed wires in the past. A supervisor may have given you a long list of tasks without writing them down or enumerating the expectations. When you find yourself going about your workplace duties, it would be easy to forget one of the tasks to be completed.
Now, just imagine how much more difficult that exchange would have become if you were struggling to hear what your supervisor had to say. Not only would the list be complicated in the first place, but you would also have trouble hearing each aspect of the workload. In these ways, workplace performance can suffer due to hearing loss. Though profound hearing loss may be accommodated in a number of ways in the workplace, more subtle struggles to understand can go unnoticed by coworkers and supervisors, making them think that you are just not completing your job properly.
In addition to safety and performance, we might be slow to acknowledge what an enjoyable social environment a workplace can be. During some phases of our lives, we may even spend more time with our coworkers than with our own families, friends, and loved ones. Workplace bonds are a unique type of friendship, working toward a common goal while needing to get along in order to make our days enjoyable and to eliminate stress.
Hearing loss can cause difficulty in communication, and the struggle to hear can take away the social enjoyment of our jobs. Though one might have a fun time laughing with coworkers over lunch, the inability to hear conversations can make us feel like outsiders or even like we are not part of the group. What once was an enjoyable respite from the workday can become another exhausting task to hear and understand what others have to say. Although hearing loss can affect our jobs in at least these three ways, the other side of the coin is the immense improvement to our occupations that can come with assistive technology and treatment.
Are you concerned about your hearing abilities? To schedule a hearing test, contact us at Lifestyle Hearing Solutions today.