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Occupational hearing loss may be critical issue in workplace

Illinois residents who are employed within the state's manufacturing sector may be interested in learning more about what has been identified as one of the most critical issues in the workplace. According to a document recently published by the National Occupational Research Agenda, hearing loss is the most common occupational illness suffered by those who work in this nation's manufacturing industries.

Although occupationally induced hearing loss accounts for a ninth of OSHA-recordable illnesses, NORA warns that the number of workers affected may be higher. Two conditions must be present before a case qualifies as recordable. The hearing loss must be work-related and must be severe enough to have already resulted in hearing impairment. Reports suggest that some individuals may suffer measurable loss prior to becoming impaired. In many cases, hearing loss occurs so gradually that workers may not be aware that it is happening.

Although hearing loss in the workplace may immediately follow a traumatic noise event, workers in industries as diverse as wood products, food, transportation equipment, chemical manufacturing, beverage and tobacco, furniture, fabricated metal products and primary metals may be exposed to ototoxic factors that lead to hearing loss over time. The greatest rate of hearing loss growth has been found to occur during the first 10 years of exposure. With continued exposure, frequencies crucial to the ability to understand speech are affected. Findings indicate that occupational hearing loss can happen to workers at all career stages.

Illinois residents who may be suffering from work-related hearing loss may find it beneficial to seek guidance from a workers' compensation attorney. The attorney could review the circumstances of their clients' cases and explain if the incident might be covered by a claim for benefits. In some situations, the attorney could help the injured workers secure the benefits to which they may be entitled.

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