According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), approximately 22 million workers in the U.S. Yellow Protective Ear Wear are exposed each year to a level of noise that is potentially dangerous. Occupational noise exposure is a common cause of hearing loss, and people who work in loud environments should understand the impact of noise on their hearing. Many people are exposed to extreme noise on the job, including veterans. They may suffer painful symptoms that require time off work or may cause permanent disability. If your symptoms are debilitating, you may be eligible for benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), or if you’re a veteran, from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

What Jobs Expose Workers to Extreme Noise Exposure?

Approximately 10 million people in the United States have hearing loss that’s related to noise, and four million people work at jobs that have damaging noise. Here are six occupations that expose workers to a high level of noise:

  • Military. Noise exposure in the military is common. A firearm or rifle can generate noise around 150 decibels (dB)—that’s 65 dBs over the maximum safe limit. Artillery can reach 185 dBs and jet engines nearly 140 dBs. Often, veterans have been exposed to these dB levels for long periods of time. Those who have worked on aircraft carriers, in flight line jobs, in the infantry, and in artillery and naval ship engine rooms have been exposed to some of the loudest military environments. Combat veterans have likely been exposed to the noises of war and have experienced auditory trauma.
  • Manufacturing. People who work in manufacturing are at the greatest risk of occupational hearing loss. A Michigan study shows that more than 50 percent of workplace permanent hearing loss cases stem from manufacturing jobs. Exposure to loud, large equipment and machinery contributes to this high percentage.
  • Construction, Carpentry, and Mining. Construction sites create an extreme noise level that can be very hazardous for workers and their hearing health. It’s dangerous for people to be exposed to noise over 85 decibels (dB) for extended periods of time; however, many tools used by construction workers create noise well above this level. Additionally, carpenters work with noisy tools, mitre saws, hand drills, chop saws, hammer drills, and chain saws. Sand and gravel miners are also exposed to high levels of noise on the job.
  • Motorcycle couriers and riders. Even when a motorcycle driver is wearing a helmet, if he’s traveling over 50 mph, he can be exposed to up to 90 dB of noise. It’s recommended that drivers not exceed 2.5 – 3 hours of this exposure. Anyone using a bike—for work or pleasure—can have their hearing negatively impacted by continuous, everyday exposure.
  • Entertainment and Nightlife. Many entertainment establishments such as concert halls, bars, and nightclubs often have a large number of customers and operate with loud music. Both customers, performers, and employees are often exposed to noise levels above 100 dB, and this can be very damaging to their ears.
  • Airport ground staff. Airport traffic directors wear hearing protection for a reason. A jet engine reaches a sound level of 140 dB, and workers face extreme noise conditions in this highly hazardous occupation.  

If you’re a veteran, and your military service exposed you to a high level of noise, or you work in an environment or with equipment that creates excessive noise, you may face serious hearing problems and disabling hearing loss. If your hearing loss is interfering with your life and work, contact us at 402-933-5405 to discuss your situation. We can help determine if you’re eligible for VA or SSA disability benefits


Sean D. Cuddigan
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SSA and VA Disability Attorney in Omaha, Nebraska