Research/studies Hearing loss

NIOSH study examines workplace hearing loss trends over 30 years

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Washington – The risk of work-induced hearing loss may be declining, but efforts are still needed in industries such as mining, construction and health care, according to a new NIOSH study.

Researchers examined results from hearing tests of nearly 2 million noise-exposed workers from 1981 to 2010 and found that the overall prevalence of hearing loss in all industries remained consistent at 20 percent. However, the number of new cases of hearing loss decreased, leading researchers to believe some progress has occurred in preventing occupational hearing loss, a NIOSH press release states.

Despite this progress, some industries still present a high risk. Construction had the highest incidence of hearing loss during most of the time periods in the study. Additionally, mining, health care and social assistance were the only industries that did not experience a reduction in the risk of hearing loss during the last five years of the study period.

The study was published online Feb. 17 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

According to NIOSH, 22 million workers are exposed to hazardous noise, which can lead to permanent hearing loss. Such occupational hearing loss is “entirely preventable,” the agency states.