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Kyle Morrison's blog

A blog by Safety+Health Senior Associate Editor Kyle W. Morrison


kyle.morrison@nsc.org


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A cure worth hearing about

November 13, 2013

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More than 30 million workers are exposed to workplace conditions that can induce hearing loss, which is permanent and incurable. Or is it?

New research conducted on mice has led to the development of a drug that can partially restore hearing by allowing the regeneration of sensory hair cells, which are responsible for hearing and become damaged when exposed to loud noise.

While research on mice does not automatically mean a cure for humans, it does show promise and a step in the right direction.

My question for you is this: If scientists are indeed able to cure occupational hearing loss, does that mean noise exposure limits and other precautions go out the window?

Nearly three years ago, OSHA attempted to reinterpret its noise standard in a manner that would have relied on engineering controls to reduce noise levels, rather than personal hearing protection. The rationale was that hearing protection alone was thought to be ineffective at preventing hearing loss. The agency eventually withdrew this idea over concerns about costs.

Will such costs for engineering controls be seen as unnecessary if workers can simply restore their hearing? What about hearing protection devices? Or will the old idiom of an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure continue to ring true?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

(h/t: The Positive, via Geeks Are Sexy)

The opinions expressed in "Washington Wire" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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