Everyone knows, or at least should know, that prolonged exposure to loud noises can damage your hearing. Anyone who has attended a rock concert without some form of ear protection has probably experienced a ringing in the ears for days afterward. If you paid the price for the ticket, that damage is a risk you chose to face and you can’t expect someone else to cover the cost of your recovery.
However, if you suffer long-term or extreme trauma because of work, that’s another story. Under the laws of Maryland, Florida, New York, or any other state, employers have an obligation to provide a safe work environment. Even if they don’t, there is workers’ compensation insurance, and if the cause of an illness or disease is due to conditions on the job, you have a right to seek benefits, including appealing a denial if necessary.
Obviously, if a jackhammer operator doesn’t operate the tool correctly and wear protective gear, he or she can suffer hearing loss, just like a regular rock concertgoer. But sounds you hear are not the only ones that can cause damage.
In recent weeks, we’ve seen stories about how U.S. diplomats stationed in Cuba having suffered hearing loss, dizziness, ringing in the ears and nausea. Some have even suffered traumatic brain injuries. The unconfirmed suspicion is that they were the targets of some sort of sonic attack. The investigation continues.
As experts know, a person doesn’t have to be exposed to some sort of secret weapon to suffer debilitating hearing loss. Infrasound is sound at wavelengths that humans can’t hear. A person might feel a pulsating vibration or low continuous hum but not be aware of infrasound. Ultrasound is audio that is too high to hear, but it can have equally devastating effect on human tissue.
The point is that sound waves can’t be seen and sometimes can’t be heard. They can still cause illness and injury, and it can happen at work. Because they’re invisible, proving cause and effect can be challenging but that doesn’t make them any less real.