Excessive noise that has dominated the workplace throughout time is now associated as causing a plethora of serious health conditions. A recent article in the New York Magazine by David Owen focusses on occupational induced noise pollution and the ailments it affects.
“Modern sound-related health threats extend far beyond music, and they affect more than hearing. Studies have shown that people who live or work in loud environments are particularly susceptible to many alarming problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, low birth weight, and all the physical, cognitive, and emotional issues that arise from being too distracted to focus on complex tasks and from never getting enough sleep. And the noise that we produce doesn’t harm only us. Scientists have begun to document the effects of human-generated sound on non-humans—effects that can be as devastating as those of more tangible forms of ecological desecration…..”
“In February, Bruitparif, a nonprofit organization that monitors environmental-noise levels in metropolitan Paris, published a report that combined medical projections from the World Health Organization with “noise maps” based partly on data from its own network of acoustic sensors. It concluded, among many other things, that an average resident of any of the loudest parts of the Île-de-France—which includes Paris and its surrounding suburbs—loses “more than three healthy life-years,” in the course of a lifetime, to some combination of ailments caused or exacerbated by the din of cars, trucks, airplanes, and trains. These health effects, according to guidelines published by the W.H.O.’s European regional office last year, include tinnitus, sleep disturbance, ischemic heart disease, obesity, diabetes, adverse birth outcomes, and cognitive impairment in children. In Western Europe, the guidelines say, traffic noise results in an annual loss of “at least one million healthy years of life.”
Make Listening Safe is the World Health Organization’s initiative to highlight and reduce the growing risk of hearing loss posed by “unsafe” listening through personal audio devices and systems. Make Listening Safe is the result of a collaboration between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), along with experts in the field of sound, audiology, acoustics, technology, health communication, and standardization and product development.
“Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the resultant increase in exposure to noise in the workplace, the effects of such exposure on workers' hearing has been a subject of concern to both the legislature and the courts. Traumatic hearing losses have been recognized for workers' compensation purposes as having occurred as a result of a single, short exposure to excessive noise.” “ Otological disability—In general”, Gelman, Jon L, Workers’ Compensation Law, 38 NJPRAC 9.5 (Thomson-Reuters 2019). See also, Schorpp-Replogle v. New Jersey Mfrs. Ins. Co., 395 N.J. Super. 277, 928 A. 2d 855 (N.J. App. Div. 2007).
Personal audio listening devices have added yet another dimension to the causes of hearing loss. Greater attention should be focused on all aspects of noise pollution in the workplace.
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Jon L. Gelman of Wayne NJ is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise, Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (West-Thomson-Reuters). For over 4 decades the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 firstname.lastname@example.org has been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.