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The prevalence of occupational hearing loss

Minnesota workers are exposed to many things on the job that can cause an injury or an illness, but one of the most common is occupational hearing loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic health condition among older Americans, after arthritis and hypertension. Furthermore, at least 11 percent of U.S workers have some degree of hearing loss, and 24 percent of this hearing loss is caused by exposure to conditions at the workplace.

Occupational hearing loss occurs when workers are exposed to some type of on-the-job irritant such as certain chemicals or to loud noises that are greater than 85 decibels in strength. Exposure to ototoxic chemicals can cause hearing loss, and they include organic solvents, some heavy metals and gases such as carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide.

Every year, about 22 million workers are exposed to hearing hazards. At least 10 million each year are exposed to solvents, while many more are exposed to other toxic substances that can damage hearing. To combat this problem, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health conduces surveillance, which includes collecting data on worker hearing and exposure to harmful substances, estimating the degree of injury to hearing suffered on the job, and monitoring trends.

Workers who have suffered hearing loss on the job may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for their disabilities. In general, occupational diseases can be harder to prove that they were the result of workplace exposure than is the case with an on-the-job injury. As such, the assistance of an attorney can be vital in compiling all evidence to support the claim for benefits.

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