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Hearing impairment common among older and retired construction trade workers: study

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Silver Spring, MD — A recent study of older and retired construction trade workers shows that more than half experience hearing impairment – and the risk increases with age.

Researchers from CPWR – The Center for Construction Research and Training, Duke University, and the University of Maryland studied data for more than 21,000 participants in the Building Trades Medical Screening Program, or BTMed, to evaluate the risk of hearing impairment. The participants, who self-reported cases of tinnitus, previously worked at Department of Energy nuclear weapons facilities.

Overall, 55.2% of the participants experienced hearing impairment, which was observed more among men (57.7%) than women (26.8%). The participants were 40% more likely to develop hearing impairment than non-construction workers.

The trades most associated with hearing impairment were boilermakers (65.8%) and carpenters (65.3%), while boilermakers had the highest occurrence of tinnitus, at 64.3%.

 

Additionally, findings show that almost 95% of former construction trade workers older than 85 experience hearing impairment.

The prevalence of hearing impairment and tinnitus proved greater than previous research, the researchers note, largely because BTMed follows participants after retirement.

“To draw conclusions about the risk for work-related chronic diseases and disorders, it is important to monitor workers through their lifetimes,” the researchers write. “Also, tinnitus by itself should be given greater significance. These findings reinforce the need to promote noise reduction and hearing conservation in construction.”

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

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