Special Report

24 Jobs That Could Ruin Your Hearing

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14. Miscellaneous metal workers and plastic workers
> Average decibel level: 89.5 dBA (0.5% lower than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 100,300
> Annual median wage: $36,050

Miscellaneous metal and plastic workers include heat treating equipment setters, layout workers, tool grinders, and more. These workers use large, noisy machines to create items made of metal or plastic.

Among thousands of OSHA measurements, the agency found that over 88% of workers in these occupations were in an environment in which the average decibel level exceeded 85 dBA, and 54% were in an environment in which the decibel level exceeded 90 dBA.

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13. Logging workers
> Average decibel level: 89.6 dBA (0.4% lower than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 37,960
> Annual median wage: $41,230

Logging workers are in one of the noisiest jobs in America for one main reason — chainsaws. These workers use chainsaws and other similar implements to fell trees. Chainsaws are among the noisiest tools a worker in any job would regularly use, producing decibel levels of around 115 dBA — well beyond the threshold of noises considered safe, which is generally thought to be around 80-85 dBA.

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12. Furnace, kiln, oven, drier, and kettle operators and tenders
> Average decibel level: 89.7 dBA (0.4% lower than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 18,970
> Annual median wage: $40,090

Those who work with furnaces, kilns, ovens, and other similar heating equipment perform a variety of tasks at work. These can include drying lumber, curing rubber, boiling soap, removing moisture from materials, and more.

More than half of all OSHA measurements taken at these kinds of work environments found an average decibel level of over 90 dBA and nearly 83% had an average level of over 85 dBA. Heating equipment is known to produce low-frequency sound, and it can be more difficult to reduce the effects of these sounds with common solutions like simply blocking them with a barrier.

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11. Gaming services workers
> Average decibel level: 89.8 dBA (0.3% lower than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 119,330
> Annual median wage: $21,730

Gaming services workers serve customers in racetracks, casinos, and other places where they can gamble. Casino floors are relatively noisy places, with ambient noise levels around 85 dBA due to loud electronic slot machines, buzzers and bells sounding when someone wins, and conversations at gaming tables.

Gaming services workers have by far the lowest income of any job on this list. Their annual median wage of $21,730 is well below the annual median wage of $39,810.

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10. Textile machine setters, operators, and tenders
> Average decibel level: 89.9 dBA (0.1% lower than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 74,220
> Annual median wage: $29,640

Textile machine setters, operators, and tenders work in an environment in which the average decibel level is 89.9 dBA throughout the workday, just slightly below the permissible exposure limit of 90 dBA set by OSHA. More than 90% of workers in this occupation should be provided with hearing protection, as the average decibel level they are exposed to exceeds 85 dBA.

These workers, who bleach, dye, cut, knit, or wind textiles, are at a high risk of developing hearing loss as a result of the loud equipment used to do their jobs.

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