NIOSH Examines Trends in Worker Hearing Loss across Industries

While workers’ risk of hearing loss has been reduced in most industry sectors, additional efforts are needed to protect workers in the mining, construction, and healthcare and social assistance sectors, according to a new NIOSH study. The study is the first to examine hearing loss trends experienced by workers occupationally exposed to noise by industry sector. 

Researchers examined audiograms for 1.8 million workers from a 30-year period: 1981–2010. For all industries combined, the study shows that the number of new cases of hearing loss and the risk of incident hearing loss decreased over the 30-year timeframe. However, the prevalence of workers with hearing loss was “consistently high” for both mining and construction workers, and the risk of hearing loss remains high for those working in healthcare and social assistance. According to NIOSH researchers, only four percent of healthcare and social assistance workers are exposed to hazardous noise, but 74 percent of those workers have reported not wearing hearing protection.
“Looking at hearing loss trends across all industries over a long period of time can provide a better understanding of what still needs to be done for the protection of workers,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, MD. “Noise control in the workplace is directly linked to the prevention of hearing loss among workers in all industries and can positively impact workers on the job and at home.”
The study was published in the April 2015 issue of the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. For more information related to this topic, visit the NIOSH Web pages on hearing loss prevention and occupational hearing loss surveillance.