DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2010-160
A Story of Impact:
NIOSH Researchers Developed a Novel Training Tool that Simulates the Effects of Noise Exposure on Hearing Loss
Job-induced hearing loss is a big problem in today’s work settings, affecting workers in industry sectors such as manufacturing, construction, mining, transportation, agriculture, and the military. Approximately 22 million workers are exposed on the job to noise levels that could harm their hearing.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed the NIOSH Hearing Loss Simulator, a software training and communication tool that demonstrates the effects of noise exposure on a worker’s hearing without exposing the person to harmful noise levels or toxic materials. The software considers several factors including age, gender, level of exposure, and years of exposure, and then simulates human speech that is degraded to reflect the estimated hearing loss.
- At present exposure limits, 1 in 4 people exposed to excessive noise or other toxicants while on the job will develop permanent hearing loss.
- Approximately 11.4% (13.9 million) of working American adults report some degree of hearing loss.
- Hearing loss may impede some individuals’ ability to be gainfully employed.
- Hearing loss is not inevitable and can be prevented.
Human speech is considered the most complex and important sound most workers need to perceive so this software training and communication tool allows the user to combine speech with common background noises to demonstrate hearing loss. Users choose either a male or female voice to demonstrate different sound frequencies and can choose from a variety of background noises, including recorded worksite sounds; they can record and upload their own custom foreground and background noises; and they also have the ability to control the speech-to-background noise ratio to illustrate how increasing background noise interferes with understanding speech that is present in the foreground.
In addition, users can manipulate sound and frequency levels allowing results of an actual hearing test to be entered into the software. Those results can then be used to demonstrate the tested individual’s actual hearing loss to individuals without hearing loss. The real-life scenarios of this software has the potential to raise awareness, increase motivation for hearing loss prevention, and reduce the number of people who suffer from hearing loss. NIOSH recommends that employers and individuals interested in hearing loss education and prevention take the following steps to learn more about the effects of noise exposure.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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