Millions of Americans put their ears at risk each year while on the job. New research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and published in the International Journal of Audiology looked at a wide range of sectors to determine which puts its workers most at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus. The results are below.
Job Industry Research
The researchers reviewed audiograms completed between 2006 and 2015 for 1.9 million workers exposed to noise across all industries. An audiogram is a visual representation of a person’s hearing loss, charting sounds as low as 500 Hertz (Hz) to as high as 8000 Hz.
Within the almost two million workers included in this research study, 158,436 worked in the service sector, the largest sector in U.S. industry.
Workers who are exposed to hazardous noise or chemicals that can damage the ear can develop occupational hearing loss. This is often accompanied by high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tinnitus, depression and cognitive decline.
The results of “Prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the services sector, 2006–2015” indicates that workers in construction, manufacturing and mining sectors have the highest percentage of workers exposed to hazardous noise and chemicals, putting them at the highest risk of hearing loss.
Researchers determined that the prevalence of hearing loss across all industries was 16%. While the percentage of hearing loss in the service sector as a whole was similar at 17%, many subsectors significantly exceeded these numbers for overall prevalence.
The service sector consists of a wide variety of industries, including:
- Accommodations and food service
- Dry cleaning and laundry
- Educational training
- Entertainment and recreation
- Financial transactions
- Legal advice and representation
- Machinery repairing
- Newspaper, music and software publishing
- Overseeing and managing governmental programs
- Renting and leasing
- Security and surveillance
The highest prevalence of hearing loss was seen in workers in administration of urban planning and community and rural development at 50%. The highest risk of developing hearing loss was seen in workers in solid waste combustors and incinerators.
Subsectors traditionally viewed as low risk for hearing loss were revealed to have higher than expected outcomes. Custom computer programming has a prevalence of hearing loss at 35% and elementary and secondary schools measured 26%.
The results of this study illuminate the need for more hearing loss awareness programs in the workplace. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends sites remove or reduce occupational noise at the source. If the noise cannot be reduced down to a safe level, workers should reduce the amount of time they spend in noisy areas and hearing protection should be worn.
To learn more about protecting your hearing or to schedule an appointment with an expert, contact Hearing Health Centers today.