Half of Noise-Exposed Workers Do Not Use Hearing Protection

First published by NIOSH

Photo property of NIOSH

Study Finds Over Half of Noise-Exposed Workers Do Not Use Hearing Protection When Exposed to Noise on the Job

Non-use varied by industry and occupation, and was highest among women, young workers, and current smokers

A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that over half of noise-exposed workers didn’t use hearing protection “always” or “usually” when exposed to hazardous occupational noise. Hearing protection device (HPD) non-use was only measured in workers who reported exposure to noise on the job. The study was published online October 1, 2021 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

Researchers reviewed nearly 40,000 worker responses to the 2007 and 2014 National Health Interview Survey. They found that of the more than 5,400 workers who experience hazardous noise exposure at work, 53% didn’t “always” or “usually” wear hearing protection.

Industries with the highest prevalence of hearing protection device nonuse were accommodation and food services (90%), health care and social assistance (83%), and education services (82%). Prevalence also was notably high in multiple industries in which occupational noise is a longstanding hazard, including agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (74%) and construction (52%).

“The prevalence of HPD nonuse remains high,” Elizabeth Masterson, study co-author and NIOSH epidemiologist, said in the release. “Increasing worker awareness and providing training about the importance of proper and consistent used of HPDs can protect workers from the effects of hazardous noise. In addition, we need to overcome barriers to HPD use by ensuring that workers have HPDs that are comfortable and do not overprotect from noise so they can hear speech and other important workplace signals.”

The study was published online Oct. 1 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.

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