Noise protection and health management: hearing loss is the most common occupational disease


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An often underestimated danger: Millions of working people suffer from noise pollution - not only in the construction or industrial sectors, Germany's workers get a lot of their ears.

Noise protection and health management: Hearing loss is the most common occupational disease Noise protection and health arrangement: Hearing loss is the most common occupational disease


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Deafness Most frequent occupational disease

Around five million people in employment in Germany are exposed to heavy noise pollution at the workplace. With dangerous consequences for health. Hearing loss due to permanent sound pressure over 80 decibels, dB (A) is currently the most recognized occupational disease with around 5000 new cases every year.

For this reason, experts should insist that they are legally obliged to comply with company protective measures, the experts recommend. The provision of hearing protection alone is not enough, like some Company mistakenly mean. Because employers have a greater duty of care towards their staff.

14 million sufferers

Currently, for example, 14 millions of Germans complain of disorders that can be attributed to noise pollution such as hearing loss, tinnitus or sudden hearing loss. But chronic noise is not just a matter of hearing. It can also lead to numerous other diseases as a constant stress factor.

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Such as sleep disorders, depression, hypertension, myocardial infarction or stroke. In addition, the risk of accidents at the workplace increases significantly as the concentration of the employees decreases. This makes susceptible to errors.

What does the law say?

The so-called noise and vibration protection ordinance (2007) contains the most important regulations for noise protection for workers of all sectors. According to this, the employees from 80 dB (A) noise pollution (corresponding to loud rock music) must not only be given an unsupervised hearing protection, but the employees must also be informed about possible hearing damage.

They are also entitled to appropriate occupational medical care. “If the noise level is above 85 dB (A), the area in question must be marked with a warning sign in which hearing protection must be worn. In addition to regular preventive occupational medical examinations, dedicated noise protection measures are required, through which the sound pressure is sustainably reduced, ”says occupational safety advisor Martin Zeiml.

Which industries are affected?

Employees from the sectors of construction, crafts, metal-processing industry and logistics (especially airport areas and dock facilities) are exposed to particularly high noise pollution. These are on average between 95 and 130 decibels - roughly the volume of a busy highway or a starting nozzle jet.

But also with the move in of the open-plan offices, office staff and call center employees. In the past, limit values ​​of 55 and 70 decibels applied to offices, which is comparable to distant aircraft noise. Unfortunately, this was not done in the new regulation.

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Noise limit for office work

However, employees from the office sector can rely on the limit values ​​according to DIN EN ISO 11690-1: They are at 45 dB (A) for activities with special concentration and 55 dB (A) for normal office activities, "says quality manager Martin Zeiml.

This corresponds to the hum of a refrigerator - so it is not the return of the silence, but makes concentrated work possible.

Hearing loss as an occupational disease: how can you get it recognized?

Hearing loss has long been recognized as an occupational disease, and the list of occupational diseases (BKen) was supplemented in 2009 with five further clinical pictures. The corresponding clinical pictures can be recognized as occupational diseases if the causation is confirmed:

  1. Gonarthrosis - the premature wear of the cartilaginous articular surfaces in the knee (BK No. 2112)
  2. Lung fibrosis (inflammatory disease of the lungs) due to extreme and long-term exposure to welding fumes and welding gases (“siderofibrosis”) (BK No. 4115)
  3. Blood, hematopoietic and lymphatic system disorders caused by benzene (Bk No. 1318)
  4. Lung cancer from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) (BK No. 4113)
  5. Lung cancer through the interaction of asbestos fibers and PAH (BK No. 4114)

How does it depend on whether a disease is recognized as an occupational disease?

Whether and which diseases are recognized as occupational diseases largely depends on the development of work-related health risks and the related medical research. Basically:

Occupational diseases (BK) are only those diseases that are caused by special influences to which certain occupational groups are exposed to a considerably greater extent than the rest of the population due to their work.

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Procedure and delimitation

If the relevant knowledge is available, the Federal Government will add the relevant illnesses to the list of occupational diseases on the recommendation of the Medical Advisory Board for Occupational Diseases at the Federal Ministry of Labor.

These diseases - e.g. B. Gonarthrosis or lung cancer - can be due to work-related causes. However, there are often other causes. Three of the new occupational diseases (BK-Nos. 2112, 4113, 4114) contain explicit dose limit values ​​to enable differentiation.

They indicate the intensity and duration of work-related exposure, which is sufficient to cause the disease. For the two other new occupational diseases, the dose-response relationships are described in more detail in the scientific justifications of the Medical Advisory Board for Occupational Diseases.

Examples: The dose makes the poison

It is particularly important to regulate the dose limit in gonarthrosis, which older people in particular often suffer from. To be recognized as an occupational disease, a life dose of 13.000 working hours of knee-strain activity is required; only work shifts with at least one hour of work in kneeling or crouching count.

This life dose is fulfilled, for example, by an installer who worked in 200 shifts per 2 hours a year after 32,5 years; a tiler with 4 hours each working shift after half the time, i.e. in 16,25 years.

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Deadline for recognition

As with other occupational diseases, there is retroactive recognition for the five new facts, but this is limited by a cut-off date. There is no limit for the BK 1318 only, because illnesses caused by benzene have been recognized as occupational diseases since 1925.

For the other four facts, the cut-off date is based on the publication date of the respective scientific recommendations. For the BK 4113 this is November 30.11.1997, 30, for the other three clinical pictures September 09, 2002. For the insured, this means: An occupational disease cannot be recognized if the illness occurred before the cut-off date.

In plain text

This means that if a tiler had medically diagnosed gonarthrosis before 2002, it can no longer be recognized as an occupational disease.

The deadline for the “Bergmanns Bronchitits” (BK No. 4111) has been abolished. As a result, many miners formerly active in coal mining are no longer excluded from compensation payments.

Who reports an occupational disease?

If an occupational disease is suspected, doctors, health insurance companies and entrepreneurs must report this to the responsible accident insurance institution. Affected insured persons can also make an application themselves.

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The trade association or accident insurance company checks the case by evaluating all available data. In the case of recognized occupational disease, insured persons are entitled to medical treatment and to a corresponding pension if their ability to work is reduced. Insured persons can lodge an objection with their accident insurance institution against negative decisions and, if the objection is unsuccessful, before the Social Court.


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