New study highlights prevalence of hearing loss among workers in agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries

New study highlights prevalence of hearing loss among workers in agriculture, forestry, and fishing industries Photo: voltamax, Pixabay

A new study conducted by researchers from The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) highlights the prevalence of hearing loss among workers in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector.

The study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine shows that the prevalence of hearing loss among the sector is 15%. The researchers also examined the industries within the sector and found as many as 36% – or 1 in 3 noise-exposed workers have hearing loss.

Industries within the sector with the highest number of noise-exposed workers who have hearing loss and elevated risk of hearing loss include forest nurseries and gathering of forest products (36%), timber tract operations (22%); and fishing.

Additionally, researchers found workers in the aquaculture (fish farms or hatcheries) and logging industries are at higher risk for hearing loss.

“While we found the overall of hearing loss in the AFFH sector to be less than all industries combined, which is 19 percent, our study shows there are many industries within the sector that have a large number of workers who have or are at high risk for hearing loss,” said Elizabeth Masterson, PhD, epidemiologist and lead author of the study. “Workers in the high-risk industries identified in this study would benefit from continued hearing conservation efforts.”

Researchers examined the results of 17,299 hearing tests, or audiograms, from workers employed at 458 companies in the AFFH sector. Certified technicians conducted the hearing tests for workers exposed to high noise between the years 2003 and 2012 and shared the results with the NIOSH Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project.

“Hazardous noise affects an estimated 22 million workers in the U.S. and hearing loss from this workplace exposure is entirely preventable with the right strategies and technology such as controlling noise to safe levels, protecting employees through the use of personal protective equipment and monitoring workers for changes in their hearing levels,” said Dr. Masterson.