Even though millions of Americans have traded their office desks for kitchen tables, the results of a new study put out by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) is important for when we resume normal activities.
This study looked at which industry put its workers most at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus caused by noise hazards. The results may surprise you.
The Study Stats
Published in the International Journal of Audiology, the study looked at workers across a wide variety of industries. The researchers reviewed audiograms – visual representations of the sounds a person can hear from as low as 500 Hz up to 8000 Hz – of 1.9 million workers exposed to noise across all industries; 158,436 of those surveyed were Service sector workers.
The highest percentage of workers exposed to hazardous noise and chemicals that can be damaging to the ears, and therefore those at the highest risk of hearing loss, were those in construction, manufacturing and mining.
The researchers found that the prevalence of hearing loss in Service sectors was similar to the percentage across all industries, 17% compared to 16%, respectively. They did find, however, that a number of sub-sectors greatly exceeded the overall prevalence at 33%, compared to just 10. Workers in these sub sectors were also at a higher risk of hearing loss.
Service sectors include:
- 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
Those in urban planning, community and rural development were found to have 50% prevalence of hearing loss, while those in solid waste combustors and incinerators had double the risk of hearing loss as compared to any sub sector.
Dangers of Occupational Noise Exposure
In addition to causing hearing loss, exposure to noise has been associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol. A ringing in the ear known as tinnitus often accompanies hearing loss in addition to an increased risk of cognitive decline and depression.
The results of this study call attention to the importance of identifying at-risk workers and hearing hazards in the workplace in order to help protect their hearing. NIOSH recommends employers work to reduce occupational noise at the source, and if this cannot be done, implementing hearing conservation programs to educate and protect staff.
To learn more about protecting your hearing or to schedule an appointment with an expert, contact Hearing Systems today.