Norwegian offshore workers hard of hearing

Working in the offshore industry is a hazardous affair and hearing loss is the most common occupational health risk. Hearing loss accounts for one in every four reported work-related injuries.

General rough work conditions paired with a daily work period of 12 hours, makes the time of noise exposure longer in the off shore industry than in a normal day at work on land.

A study found hearing loss to be the most frequently reported occupational injury: A total of 1709 cases of occupational hearing loss in the Norwegian offshore industry were reported from 1992 through 2003. Of those, 94 percent were diagnosed with “effects of noise on the inner ear”, while 6 percent suffered from tinnitus.

Most cases were found in the age group of 50 to 59 years. Mechanics, painters, electricians, process technicians and rough necks, in particular, report many hearing injuries.

Compulsory hearing tests

Noise induced hearing loss due to excessive noise in the workplace is a significant health challenge facing many industries. For many years, the Norwegian offshore industry has focused on noise as a risk factor. Workers must have their hearing tested as part of their general medical check-up in order to get or renew their offshore certificate. However, despite screening and other preventive measures, the noise levels continue to be high in many workplaces.

In addition to working in a noise intensive environment, age is also a strong predictor of hearing loss. Reduced hearing will be a growing problem in an increasingly elderly workforce. Measures to prevent work related hearing impairment therefore takes on a special importance in years to come.

Source: Norsk Lægeforening Vol. 23, 2005

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