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NIOSH - National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program Review NIOSH Publications on Noise and Hearing The National Academies - Advisors to the Nation on Science, Engineering, and Medicine

What does the HLR Program Do?

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Research Goal 1

Research Goal 2

Research Goal 3

Research Goal 4

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R&D Portfolio - Research Goal 1.1: Develop criteria and recommendations for preventing occupational hearing loss

NIOSH is responsible for communicating technical recommendations for proposed standards and guidelines to OSHA, and to others in the occupational safety and health community. Criteria for recommended standards also need to be updated periodically in response to the emergence of new research findings on hearing risks.

Researchers rely on NIOSH recommendations regarding occupational hazards to hearing and preventing occupational hearing loss. The NIOSH criteria documents are the primary means for disseminating these recommendations to the professional community and to standards setting agencies. Criteria documents are technical analyses of the pertinent literature. They are designed to provide recommendations suitable for establishing the scientific bases for regulations and standards. In 1972, HLR program scientists completed their first review of what was known about noise-induced hearing loss. In the early nineties it became apparent that the 1972 review needed to be revised. By then, the original criteria were based on 30 – 40-year-old data and obsolete technologies. The HLR program conducted extensive new epidemiologic analyses of occupational hearing loss from which revised criteria were published in 1998. Major changes in the 1998 criteria included recommendations for an 85 dB(A) permissible exposure limit, alignment of action levels with the lower recommended exposure limit, adoption of a 3 dB exchange rate, modification of methods for identifying significant hearing changes, and modification of methods for predicting the effectiveness of hearing protectors. The 1998 revised criteria were designed to preserve the hearing health of workers by providing comprehensive expert technical support and developing recommendations that would constitute “best practices” for preventing occupational hearing loss.

Other efforts at developing standards or guidance includes recommendations to ANSI and ISO standards setting working groups and serving on scientific advisory bodies. Efforts also include providing technical recommendations to other federal agencies during regulatory development.

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