Hearing-test data collected by employers in the oil and gas drilling sector in British Columbia in Canada for more than five years shows that the percentage of workers showing signs of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) has increased by 12% from 33% in 2012 to 45% in 2017.
By comparison, 13% of workers in all other noisy industries tested positive for noise-induced hearing loss in 2017.
The data also showed that 65% of the oil and gas drilling workers with a noise-induced hearing loss were under the age of 35.
Use of ear plugs
While the percentage of workers with noise-induced hearing loss has increased in the drilling sector, the percentage of workers who reported wearing a hearing protection device has also increased, from 94% to 98%, with a heavy reliance on foam earplugs.
“There are a number of reasons why workers may be diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss even though they are wearing some form of hearing protection,” says Sasha Brown, WorkSafeBC occupational audiologist.
“The earplugs or earmuffs might be the wrong size, inserted or worn incorrectly, not worn for long enough or they may not be providing enough protection for the duration and intensity of noise exposure.”
WorkSafeBC is an independent, provincial, statutory agency working to reduce workplace injury, disease, and death in British Columbia. WorkSafeBC is governed by a Board of Directors appointed by the provincial government in British Columbia.