Work-related hearing loss can sneak up on you


Is work-related hearing loss a major problem?

Over 11 percent of the working population has hearing difficulty, and nearly one out of four cases of worker hearing difficulty are caused by work-related exposures. These exposures include loud noise and chemicals causing damage to the inner ear.

As we age, our hearing gradually deteriorates – sometimes so gradually that we aren’t even aware that we’re blasting the TV and talking too loudly in restaurants. According to National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys, more than 48 million Americans aged 12 years and older have some level of hearing loss.

“Approximately 80 percent of people with hearing loss will go untreated and, of those who do receive treatment, the average person will wait seven years after being diagnosed with a hearing loss until deciding to pursue treatment,” notes Dr. Chelsea Steer, Au.D., audiologist with Mid America Audiology Group, which has seven offices in the St. Louis metro area.

“More and more studies are linking hearing loss to social isolation, depression, cognitive decline, increase in falls and decrease in annual income. The importance of treating hearing loss, at any age, has become increasingly evident.”

Hearing loss can be caused by several things, including the normal aging process, exposure to excessive loud noise, ear infections or other medical conditions of the ear, trauma to the ear from contact with a foreign object, certain medications can cause hearing loss and/or tinnitus, head trauma and some hearing loss can be hereditary, says Dr. Steer.


“Many people do not realize that their MP3 player or lawn mower can be causing damage to their hearing. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration advises that noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by prolonged exposure to any loud noise over 85 dB.”

To put this in perspective, Dr. Steer says, “consider that normal conversational speech comes in at about 60 dB, lawnmowers typically measure around 90 dB, concerts and sporting events average at 110 dB, and gun shots from small firearms can cause a lot of damage to a person’s hearing at 140 dB. We live in a noisy world and it is easy to understand why so many people have hearing loss.”

Some easy ways to determine if the noise around you is dangerous is if you have to shout over the noise to be heard, if the noise is painful to your ears, if the noise makes your ears ring, and if you have decreased or “muffled” hearing for several hours after exposure, she says.


You can visit Mid America Audiology Group’s website at to take a five-minute hearing quiz to help you determine if you show signs of a hearing loss.

Mid America Audiology Group, with four convenient locations across Illinois, focuses on diagnostic evaluations and treatment of hearing loss and balance disorders. The practice has been established for more than 30 years and has three audiologists and one hearing instrument specialist. The practice provides treatment options that include hearing devices, aural rehabilitation, tinnitus therapy, and counseling to help patients communicate better. The Alton location also offers vestibular (balance) evaluations and treatment of certain types of balance disorders.

To find out more about hearing loss and Mid America Audiology Group, call 888-531-6036.



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