19 September 2016

People exposed to noise at work have a five times higher risk of hearing problems

Workers exposed to occupational noise have a five times higher risk of hearing problems and tinnitus, a study finds. Around 22 million American workers are affected by hazardous noise.
People exposed to noise at work have a five times higher risk of hearing problems

A study from NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) in the US has examined hearing difficulty and tinnitus in various industries.

NIOSH-study findings

The prevalence of hearing difficulty and tinnitus is nearly five times higher among workers exposed to occupational noise.

In the study NIOSH found that:

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Among workers who had at some point in their working careers been exposed to occupational noise, 23% had hearing difficulty, 15% had tinnitus, and 9% had both conditions.

Among workers never exposed to noise on the job only 7% had hearing difficulty, 5% had tinnitus and 2% had both conditions.

Workers in agriculture, forestry, and the fishing and hunting industry had a significantly higher risk of hearing difficulty, tinnitus and their co-occurrence. Manufacturing workers also had a significantly higher risks for tinnitus and the co-occurrence of tinnitus and hearing difficulty.

Workers in life, physical and social science occupations and personal care and service occupations had significantly higher risks of hearing difficulty. Workers in architecture and engineering occupations also had significantly higher risks for tinnitus.

Workers in sales and related occupations had significantly lower risks of hearing difficulty, tinnitus and their co-occurrence.

22 million U.S. workers affected

Hearing difficulty, tinnitus and their co-occurrence are prevalent in the U.S., but especially among noise-exposed workers. NIOSH reports that hazardous noise affects approximately 22 million U.S. workers.

Workers with hearing loss often have trouble localizing sounds or hearing warning signals and have an increased risk of accidents.

"Hearing loss can greatly impact a worker's overall health and well-being," said NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard, M.D.

"A study of the prevalence of hearing conditions among the overall U.S. adult population and among noise-exposed and non-noise-exposed workers gives a clearer understanding of where improved strategies for prevention of hearing loss are needed. Hazardous levels of occupational noise exposure and environmental noise exposure both need to be avoided," he said.

NIOSH is the US federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses, and deaths.

About the study

The study, "Hearing Difficulty and Tinnitus among U.S. Workers and Non-workers in 2007”, was based on data from the American 2007 National Health Interview Survey, and provided detailed, self-reported information on hearing difficulty, tinnitus, and exposures to occupational noise.

The study was published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Sources: onlinelibrary.wiley.com, www.cdc.gov and www.ohsonline.com

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