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Hearing Loss from Construction Work [July 2024 Guide]

Written By:
Tor Hoerman
Tor Hoerman

Attorney Tor Hoerman, admitted to the Illinois State Bar Association since 1995 and The Missouri Bar since 2009, specializes nationally in mass tort litigations. Locally, Tor specializes in auto accidents and a wide variety of personal injury incidents occuring in Illinois and Missouri.

This article has been written and reviewed for legal accuracy and clarity by the team of writers and attorneys at TorHoerman Law and is as accurate as possible. This content should not be taken as legal advice from an attorney. If you would like to learn more about our owner and experienced injury lawyer, Tor Hoerman, you can do so here.

TorHoerman Law does everything possible to make sure the information in this article is up to date and accurate. If you need specific legal advice about your case, contact us. This article should not be taken as advice from an attorney.

Hearing Loss Suffered by Construction Workers: An Overview

On this page, we’ll discuss hearing loss from construction work, the common risks of hearing-related injuries in the construction industry, how personal protective equipment can prevent hearing loss, and much more.

Hearing Loss: One of the Most Common Construction Injuries

Of the many serious injuries construction workers face, few are as common as hearing loss.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), up to 14% of all injured construction workers have experienced some form of hearing loss.

With over 22 million construction workers exposed to noise hazards yearly, we can only expect the number of construction workers with hearing loss to rise.

Hearing Loss from Construction Work

As a construction worker yourself, you may also be exposed to noise hazards and, consequently, the risk of losing your hearing.

If you’ve already sustained some form of hearing loss on your construction site, know that you may have a legitimate claim for workers’ compensation and work-related injuries.

At TorHoerman Law, we represent victims of various work-related injuries on construction sites.

We’re here for you to advocate for your rights if you’ve lost your hearing due to prolonged noise exposure.

Contact TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to find out if you qualify for a claim instantly.

Table of Contents

Overview of Hearing Loss in Construction Sites

Hearing loss is a significant issue in the construction industry.

Prolonged exposure to high noise levels on construction sites is a leading cause of hearing damage among workers.

Noise exposure has affected thousands of construction workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Based on statistics gathered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the vast majority of construction workers affected by hearing loss are those who undertake demolition work.

These numbers paint a startling picture of how prevalent hearing loss is in the construction industry.

The Effects of Prolonged Noise Exposure on Construction Sites

Construction sites are noisy environments.

The constant sound from heavy machinery, power tools, and construction activities contributes to this hazard.

Equipment such as jackhammers, bulldozers, saws, and drills produce dangerously high noise levels.

These sounds can reach levels that are harmful to your ears within a short period.

The risk of hearing loss goes up exponentially the longer you’re exposed to noise.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an eight-hour exposure to noise above 85 dBA is enough to cause irreparable hearing loss.

Short-Term Exposure Is Just as Dangerous

For a worker to experience hearing loss, exposure doesn’t need to be prolonged.

Even short bursts of loud noise can be damaging if they occur frequently.

Repeated exposure to noise from dangerous equipment like jackhammers can cause tinnitus or ringing of the ears, according to OSHA.

Common Noise Hazards on Construction Sites

Construction sites are filled with various noise hazards that can damage hearing.

The following types of equipment and activities have been identified as the major contributors to hearing loss on construction sites.


Jackhammers are powerful tools used to break up concrete and asphalt.

They produce extremely high noise levels, typically ranging from 85 to 130 decibels (dB).

To put this in perspective, normal conversation is about 60 dB.

Exposure to noise levels above 85 dB for extended periods can cause hearing damage.

The intense, repetitive noise of jackhammers can lead to permanent hearing loss if proper ear protection isn’t used.


Bulldozers are essential for moving large amounts of earth and debris on construction sites.

The noise levels generated by bulldozers can reach between 93 and 112 dB.

This noise, often continuous and pervasive on active construction sites, poses a significant risk to hearing.

Regular exposure to this level of noise without protective measures can result in serious hearing impairment over time.


Power saws, including circular saws and chainsaws, are common on construction sites.

They generate noise levels from 95 to 120 dB.

Even short-term exposure to these noise levels can be harmful.

Repeated or prolonged exposure, especially without ear protection, can quickly lead to hearing loss.

Given their widespread use, it’s critical to always wear hearing protection when operating or working near these tools.


Drills are versatile tools used for creating holes and driving screws.

They can produce noise levels of 90 to 115 dB, depending on the type and size of the drill.

Continuous use of drills without adequate hearing protection can cause significant hearing damage.

It’s important to minimize exposure time and use ear protection consistently when working with drills.

Duration of Exposure and Hearing Loss

The duration of exposure to these noise levels is just as important as the noise level itself.

Hearing damage is a cumulative process, meaning it builds up over time with repeated exposure to loud noise.

Noise levels above 85 dB can start to cause hearing loss if you’re exposed to them for more than eight hours a day.

As the noise level increases, the safe exposure time decreases dramatically.

At 100 dB, hearing damage can occur after just 15 minutes of exposure.

Understanding these exposure limits is crucial for protecting your hearing.

General guidelines taken from OSHA regulations include:

  • 85 dB: Safe for up to 8 hours per day
  • 90 dB: Safe for up to 2 hours per day
  • 100 dB: Safe for up to 15 minutes per day
  • 110 dB: Safe for less than 2 minutes per day

Types of Hearing Damage and Their Symptoms

Hearing damage from construction site noise can manifest in various ways.

By understanding these types of hearing problems, you’ll be able to identify early symptoms and take appropriate action to protect your hearing.

You’ll also have more information on the nature and severity of your injuries, which will go a long way when you file a construction accident claim later on.

Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS)

Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS) is a temporary reduction in hearing sensitivity following exposure to loud noise.

This type of hearing loss typically occurs after short-term exposure to high noise levels.

If you spend a day using a jackhammer without ear protection, you might experience TTS.

The symptoms of TTS include:

  • Muffled Hearing: Sounds may seem dull or less clear.
  • Difficulty Understanding Speech: You might struggle to follow conversations, especially in noisy environments.
  • Fullness in the Ears: Your ears may feel plugged or full, similar to the sensation when you’re on an airplane.

TTS usually resolves within a few hours to a couple of days after the noise exposure ends.

Repeated occurrences of TTS can lead to permanent hearing damage.

It’s a warning sign that your ears need more protection from loud environments.

Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS)

Permanent Threshold Shift (PTS) is an irreversible reduction in hearing sensitivity due to prolonged or repeated exposure to loud noise.

Unlike TTS, PTS does not improve over time.

Continuous exposure to the noise of heavy machinery without adequate hearing protection can result in PTS.

Symptoms that distinguish PTS from TTS include:

  • Persistent Difficulty Hearing: Everyday sounds become harder to hear.
  • Increased Volume Needs: You might need to turn up the volume on your TV or music player more than usual.
  • Regularly Asking for Repetition: You may find yourself frequently asking people to repeat what they’ve said.

Unlike TTS which has an acute onset, PTS often develops gradually, making it hard to notice until significant damage has occurred.

Early signs shouldn’t be ignored, and regular hearing tests can help detect PTS early.


Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears without an external sound source.

It’s often a sign of hearing damage caused by exposure to loud noise.

Tinnitus can be temporary or permanent.

Tinnitus occurs from long-term exposure to construction noise.

Once it develops, you can expect constant or intermittent ringing, buzzing, or hissing sounds in the ears, which may vary in pitch and volume.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is hearing loss caused by exposure to harmful noise levels.

It can result from a single loud noise, such as an explosion, or continuous exposure to high noise levels, like working daily with loud machinery.

Symptoms of NIHL include:

  • Gradual Loss of Hearing Over Time: You may not notice a sudden change, but your hearing ability will decline gradually.
  • Muffled Sounds and Speech: Sounds and speech become less clear, making it hard to understand conversations.
  • Difficulty Understanding Conversations in Noisy Environments: Background noise becomes more of a barrier to hearing.

NIHL is preventable, but once it occurs, the damage is usually permanent.

Wearing hearing protection and minimizing exposure to loud noises are key preventive measures.

Regular hearing tests can also help detect early signs of NIHL.

Hearing Protection Measures for Construction Workers

Construction workers face frequent noise exposure, meaning they risk their hearing on a daily basis.

Construction workers must don proper safety equipment that’s designed to protect their ears from loud noises.

Besides personal protective equipment for noise, construction companies must also implement safety protocols to protect workers from hearing loss.

Personal Protective Equipment: The Importance of Earmuffs and Earplugs

Earmuffs and earplugs are critical tools for protecting your hearing.

Earmuffs cover the entire ear, providing a seal that reduces noise levels.

They’re especially effective against high-frequency noises.

Earplugs fit directly into the ear canal, blocking noise from entering, and are convenient, easy to carry, and particularly effective for low-frequency noises.

For maximum noise protection, earplugs and earmuffs must satisfy the following OSHA standards.

OSHA standards include:

  • Noise Reduction Rated (NRR): This rating indicates how much noise the device can block. Higher NRR values offer better protection.
  • Comfortable: Earmuffs and earplugs must fit well and can be worn comfortably for long periods.
  • Durable: Noise protection devices like earmuffs must be made from robust materials that can withstand harsh conditions on construction sites.

Noise Control Strategies

Engineering controls aim to reduce noise at the source.

By modifying equipment or using noise-dampening materials, you can lower the overall noise levels on a construction site.

There are different ways to minimize the noise levels.

Ways to minimize noise levels include:

  • Quieter Equipment: Companies can invest in modern machinery designed to operate more quietly.
  • Sound Barriers: Construction companies may use barriers to block noise from reaching workers. These can be temporary structures set up around noisy equipment.
  • Damping Materials: If sound barriers aren’t possible, companies can resort to materials that absorb sound to machinery and surfaces. These materials help reduce the noise produced by vibrations.

Administrative Controls

In addition to engineering controls, implementing administrative controls can help manage noise exposure.

Administrative controls can include:

  • Work Rotation: Rotate workers between noisy and quieter tasks to limit the duration of noise exposure.
  • Scheduled Breaks: Ensure workers take regular breaks away from high-noise areas to give their ears a rest.
  • Training and Awareness: Educate workers about the risks of noise exposure and the importance of hearing protection. Regular training sessions can reinforce these concepts.

Regular Hearing Assessments

Regular hearing tests are crucial for monitoring hearing health.

These tests can detect early signs of hearing loss, allowing you to take action before significant damage occurs.

Hearing assessments on-site can help in the following ways:

  • Baseline Hearing Levels: Establishing a baseline helps track any changes in hearing over time.
  • Early Detection: Identifying hearing loss early enables timely intervention.
  • Adjust Protection Measures: Based on test results, companies can adjust your hearing protection strategies to better safeguard your hearing.

Employer Responsibilities in Hearing Conservation

Employers play a crucial role in protecting workers from hearing loss on construction sites.

By fulfilling legal obligations and implementing hearing conservation programs, they can create safer work environments.

Workplace Health and Safety Regulations

Employers must protect workers from excessive noise exposure.

Regulations, such as those from the OSHA, set limits on permissible noise levels and require protective measures.

According to OSHA regulations, construction companies must implement regulations including:

  • On-Site Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL): Noise levels must not exceed OSHA’s PEL of 90 decibels (dB) over an 8-hour workday. Higher noise levels require reduced exposure time.
  • Hearing Conservation Program: Implemented when noise exceeds 85 dB over an 8-hour period, this program includes measures to protect workers’ hearing.

Hearing Conservation Programs

Companies must also have hearing conservation programs in place.

Not having these programs or not implementing them can render them liable if construction workers lose their hearing on the job.

Hearing conservation programs should include:

  • Noise Assessment: Regular noise assessments are vital to identify hazardous areas on construction sites. Findings from assessments help determine where hearing protection is needed and the extent of protective measures required.
  • Hearing Protection: Employers must ensure these devices are available, properly maintained, and that workers are trained on their correct use.
  • Hearing Surveillance: Annual hearing tests can detect early signs of hearing loss, allowing for timely intervention. Employers are responsible for maintaining records of test results to track changes in hearing ability and identify workers who may need additional protection or medical attention.

Safety Training

Educating workers about the risks of noise exposure and the importance of using hearing protection is a key component of a hearing conservation program.

Training sessions should cover:

  • The effects of noise on hearing health.
  • How to correctly use and care for hearing protection devices.
  • Recognizing early symptoms of hearing damage, such as tinnitus or difficulty hearing.

TorHoerman Law: Your Law Firm for Construction Hearing Loss Claims

Employers must fulfill their legal obligations to protect their workers from hearing loss.

If you’ve fallen victim to hearing loss, know that your employers may be liable and you may have a claim.

Find out if you’re eligible.

Contact TorHoerman Law for a free consultation.

You can also use the chatbot on this page to instantly find out if you qualify for a claim.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What are the common causes of hearing loss among construction workers?

    Hearing loss from construction work is often caused by prolonged exposure to high noise levels from heavy machinery, power tools, and other construction equipment.

    Common sources of damaging noise on construction sites include jackhammers, bulldozers, saws, and drills, which can all produce noise levels that exceed safe limits.

    Without the use of personal protective equipment like earmuffs and earplugs, construction workers are at a high risk of experiencing permanent hearing damage.

  • How can construction workers protect themselves from hearing loss?

    Construction workers can protect themselves from hearing loss by consistently using personal protective equipment (PPE) such as earmuffs and earplugs that are designed to reduce noise exposure.

    Construction companies should implement basic safety protocols, including regular noise assessments and the use of quieter machinery where possible.

    Proper training on the correct use of PPE and adhering to OSHA regulations are essential for minimizing the risk of hearing loss.

  • What are the symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss?

    Symptoms of hearing loss in construction workers include difficulty hearing conversations, especially in noisy environments, a persistent ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus), and the need to increase the volume on electronic devices.

    Workers may also experience muffled hearing and challenges understanding speech.

    Recognizing these symptoms early and seeking medical advice can help prevent further hearing damage.

  • What responsibilities do construction companies have in preventing hearing loss among their workers?

    Construction companies are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of their workers by implementing comprehensive hearing conservation programs.

    These programs should include regular noise monitoring, providing appropriate personal protective equipment, and conducting training on the risks of noise exposure and proper use of hearing protection.

    Adhering to OSHA regulations and promoting a culture of safety can significantly reduce the incidence of hearing loss among construction workers.

  • Can injured construction workers seek compensation for hearing loss?

    Yes, injured construction workers who suffer from hearing loss due to prolonged noise exposure on construction sites may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim.

    Workers can seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other related costs.

    It is important for injured workers to report the injury to their employer and consult with a legal professional experienced in handling workplace injury claims to ensure they receive fair compensation.

Written By:
Tor Hoerman

Tor Hoerman

Owner & Attorney - TorHoerman Law

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