When we think of careers hazardous to hearing, we usually think of loud machinery, such as manufacturing, construction, industrial jobs.
What about those working with children?
Recent studies have shown that teachers have a significantly higher risk of hearing loss than other professionals. Why? It seems the daily exposure to common school sounds such as loud gymnasiums, chatter-filled classrooms, cafeterias and hallways, bells ringing and slamming lockers takes its toll on hearing in a number of ways.
Remember – Sounds louder than 85 decibels can damage your hearing over the course of eight hours. While a normal conversation is about 60 decibels, the noise levels in music rooms, gymnasiums and other crowded school settings can exceed 90 decibels. This exposure can be particularly harmful to those working in those environments regularly, such as music teachers, band instructors, physical education teachers and those working in the athletic department.
The Danish Centre of Educational Environment conducted a study that found 26% of educators under the age of 40 were already experiencing hearing difficulty, compared to 17% of other young professionals. Hearing loss stemming from noise is also frequently accompanied by tinnitus, a ringing in the ears that can make it tougher to hear students in the classroom. More than half of the study’s participants admitted to frequently asking students to repeat themselves.
Hearing Hazards Start Early
Even preschool teachers face a noticeable risk of hearing damage, according to another study. Researchers from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden discovered that 70% of female preschool teachers experience noise-induced listening fatigue. Nearly half of them have difficulty understanding speech, while 70% develop a sensitivity to sound.
Researchers believe this connection is due to early childhood instructors being exposed to preschoolers’ voices and screams that may be communicating necessary information requiring action by the adult in the room. The teacher cannot simply tune out the noise as someone in a manufacturing setting may be able to, and hearing protection is not an option.
Putting Off Treatment
The Danish study reported that nearly one-third of teachers experiencing hearing problems do not seek treatment. They worry about getting a negative stigma at the workplace as well as cost, because less than 20% had healthcare insurance that covers hearing healthcare.
Fortunately, more retired teachers’ associations are offering insurance plans with healthcare coverage or supplemental coverage that covers the cost of hearing aids.