Worker cutting tree

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Researchers find elevated risk of hearing loss in certain agriculture, forestry and fishing subsectors

March 20, 2018

Washington — Although work-related hearing loss in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector is lower overall than most other industries, three specific subsectors “would benefit from continued hearing conservation efforts,” according to researchers from NIOSH.

After examining the results of 17,300 hearing tests from workers at 458 companies in the AFFH industry sector, the researchers found that 15 percent of noise-exposed workers had experienced some form of hearing impairment, slightly lower than the 19 percent observed within all industries. However, three AFFH subgroups had notably higher numbers of workers with hearing loss, as well as a higher risk of hearing loss:

  • Forest nurseries and gathering of forest products (36 percent)
  • Timber tract operations (22 percent)
  • Fishing (19 percent)

Results also showed that noise-exposed workers in logging and aquaculture face a higher risk of hearing loss. Although AFFH workers have reported fewer cases of hearing loss since the 1980s, NIOSH states that the sector remains at high risk.

In a Feb. 21 press release, study lead author and NIOSH epidemiologist Elizabeth Masterson said work-related hearing loss “is entirely preventable with the right strategies and technology, such as controlling noise to safe levels, protecting employees through the use of personal protective equipment and monitoring workers for changes in their hearing levels.”

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