Special Report

24 Jobs That Could Ruin Your Hearing

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4. Butchers and other meat, poultry, and fish processing workers
> Average decibel level: 91.1 dBA (1.2% higher than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 364,150
> Annual median wage: $29,520

Meat, poultry, and fish processors work with noisy machinery and equipment throughout their entire day. Nearly 95% of OSHA measurements in meat processing work environments found the average noise level exceeded 85 dBA — the level at which workplaces are encouraged by OSHA to provide workers with hearing protection.

The relatively high decibel level at this job has led to a high incidence of hearing loss among workers. The rate of hearing loss in animal slaughtering and processing workers is 43.0 per 10,000 workers, compared with a rate of 1.8 for all private industry jobs.

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3. Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders
> Average decibel level: 92.5 dBA (2.8% higher than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 129,580
> Annual median wage: $30,760

Woodworking machine setters, operators, and tenders use a variety of machines to cut, shape, and craft wood. These include saws, drill presses, lathes, shapers, routers, sanders, planers, and wood nailing machines.

Such machines produce noise that regularly exceeds 100 dBA, and throughout a workday in this occupation, the average noise level is 92.5 dBA — the third highest among all occupations and beyond the permissible level set by OSHA.

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2. Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers
> Average decibel level: 92.5 dBA (2.8% higher than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 5,060
> Annual median wage: $71,160

Farmers, ranchers, and other agricultural managers are often jacks of all trades, working with a variety of equipment to produce crops, livestock, and dairy. They often use equipment that is very loud such as lawnmowers, tractors, and chainsaws, which typically produce over 100 decibels.

Throughout the workday of a farmer, rancher, or agricultural managers, the average noise level exceeds the maximum safe level by 2.5 decibels.

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1. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics
> Average decibel level: 98.4 dBA (9.3% higher than the OSHA limit)
> Total employment, 2019: 260,600
> Annual median wage: $35,400

No job faces more consistently noisy working conditions than emergency medical technicians and paramedics. These workers are first responders to medical emergencies, and they perform medical care and transport patients to medical facilities.

Throughout the workday, EMTs and paramedics are within earshot of sirens, horns, diesel motors, radios, shouting, power tools, and alarms on a regular basis. This all adds up to an average decibel level of 98.4 dBA during a workday — by far the highest of any job, and nearly 10% higher than the OSHA permissible limit.

Ambulance sirens generally exceed 120 dBA, yet over a third of EMTs and paramedics do not use ear-protective gear. Nearly half of all emergency medical service providers reported having mild to moderate hearing loss.

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