Hearing loss Research/studies

NIOSH study shows prevalence of work-related hearing loss, tinnitus

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Washington – Increased awareness and targeted interventions may help protect workers from experiencing hearing loss and/or tinnitus, according to a recent study from NIOSH.

Researchers analyzed national data on hearing conditions among workers who were exposed to elevated levels of occupational noise, as well as workers who were not exposed to such noise.

Researchers emphasized several key findings, including:

  • Workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting faced “significantly higher risks” for hearing difficulty, tinnitus and the occurrence of both conditions.
  • Workers in manufacturing faced significantly higher risks for tinnitus and the co-occurrence of hearing difficulty and tinnitus.
  • Workers in life, physical and social science occupations faced a significantly higher risk for hearing difficulty.
  • Workers in architecture and engineering roles faced a significantly higher risk for tinnitus.

Twenty-three percent of workers exposed to occupational noise had hearing difficulty, compared with 7 percent of workers who had hearing difficulty despite not being exposed to occupational noise, NIOSH stated. Among those exposed to occupational noise, 15 percent had tinnitus and 9 percent had both tinnitus and hearing difficulty. Among those not exposed to occupational noise, 5 percent had tinnitus and 2 percent suffered from both conditions.

“Hearing loss can greatly impact a worker’s overall health and well-being,” NIOSH Director John Howard said in a press release. “A study of the prevalence of hearing conditions among the overall U.S. adult population and among noise-exposed and non-noise-exposed workers gives a clearer understanding of where improved strategies for prevention of hearing loss are needed. Hazardous levels of occupational noise exposure and environmental noise exposure both need to be avoided.”

The study was published online Jan. 28 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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