There is no arguing that some jobs are harder on hearing than others. DJs, the ground crew at the airport, military professions, manufacturing jobs and construction workers are just a few of the more obvious occupations. Jobs such as these, regularly exposed to higher than safe decibel levels throughout the day, often require protective ear gear to help prevent hearing loss.
These aren’t the only occupations that may result in hearing loss though. As researchers take a closer look at hearing, hearing loss and how to prevent hearing loss, other less obvious jobs are coming to light as risky for hearing health.
One of those jobs is a preschool teacher.
Hearing loss in the classroom
At first glance, the fact that preschool teachers are at higher risk for hearing loss may be surprising, but digging deeper, it’s easy to see why.
Unlike other workers like the airport ground crew or a construction worker who are exposed to noise throughout the day, preschool teachers must be able to hear and communicate with students during the day. That means preschool teachers can’t use hearing protection devices like those required in other jobs that can help reduce noise exposure. Even if their students are still learning how to control the volume of their speech, their crying and their louder reactions like screams and squeals of delight, hearing protection devices such as noise-canceling headphones and earplugs are not an option.
The level of noise in a preschool classroom is often compounded and amplified by classroom design. Preschool classrooms are often large and open with poor acoustics that amplify the sound produced by a room full of small children.
Of the preschool teachers surveyed (4,718 women), 71 percent experienced sound-induced auditory fatigue vs. 32 percent in the control group.
Almost half, 46 percent, had trouble understanding speech, compared with 26 percent of the controls.
39 percent said that at least once a week they experienced discomfort or physical pain in their ears from everyday sounds that are not necessarily loud at all vs. 18 percent in the control group.
With statistics such as these in hand, experts look for opportunities to reduce the risk of hearing loss for early childhood educators with better classroom design and smaller class sizes among other things.
“Hearing protection devices are normally the main intervention if the sound level cannot be reduced in another way…. But the design of the premises and room acoustics also have to be considered. In a large room with solid walls, it becomes noisy no matter how educational and strategic you are in your work,” says Sofie Fredriksson an audiologist with a doctorate from the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Department at Sahlgrenska Academy.
If you believe you have hearing loss or work in a job that may put you at a higher risk for hearing loss, contact our office to schedule a hearing evaluation. A professional evaluation can help you diagnosis and treat hearing loss as well as prevent additional hearing loss.