What has the HLR Program achieved?
Program outputs take many forms. They include scientific reports such as peer-reviewed journal articles, NIOSH technical reports, meeting presentations, book chapters, and review articles. Scientific publications are essential to advancement of the body of knowledge on occupational hearing loss, maintenance of the NIOSH research program's credibility, and provision of bases of support for NIOSH recommendations on hearing loss. Another type of output is recommendations of many types, from the more general and extensive criteria documents, to less extensive NIOSH Alerts, to the case study format of HHE reports, and support of conferences and best-practice workshops. Among the most successful of these outputs are "Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss-A Practical Guide,"3 "Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Noise Exposure Revised Criteria 1998,"2 and "The NIOSH Compendium of Hearing Protection Devices.", Since the program develops and evaluates tools, methods and technologies, another class of outputs is documentation of inventions, patents, and new methods. Examples include task-based exposure assessment methods, new worker training techniques, and plastic-coated flight bars on continuous mining machines.
In the last ten years, the HLR program has supported research that has led to more than 100 scientific publications, which are listed at the end of the section on each major research goal. Among the most influential we count:
- Criteria for a Recommended Standard - Occupational Noise Exposure Revised Criteria, NIOSH document 98-126, 1998. This document broke new ground in key aspects of a recommended standard, e.g. the recommendation of 85 dB(A) as the Recommended Exposure Limit (REL), along with a 3 dB exchange rate. The Criteria Document has had a strong influence on policies and practices in other governmental agencies and professional organizations, including DOD, NASA, AAA, and the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation.
- Effects of Occupational Exposure to Organic Solvents and Noise on Hearing, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work and Environmental Health, 1993.This seminal paper by Morata and her colleagues on mixed exposures and related occupational hearing loss has influenced this program and many others. It has been cited at least 75 times.
- Development of a new standard protocol for estimating the field effectiveness of hearing protection devices, Part I: Research of Working Group II, Accredited Standards Committee S12, Noise. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 1996. The inter-laboratory results first described by Royster et al. were the basis for several national and international regulations, standards and recommendations on evaluating hearing protection devices.
- Noise controls for continuous miners, published in the Proceedings of the 10th International Meeting on Low Frequency Noise and Vibration and its Control, 2002. This document presented the research and development of the coated flight bars, the most significant intermediate outcome of our engineering noise control efforts. This document has also been effective in reaching other governmental agencies, professional organizations and mining companies throughout the world with information on the engineering noise control efforts of the HLR program.
- In cooperation with the NIOSH OHC, we strive to balance the production of outputs directed towards scientific and regulatory audiences with products geared to other audiences such as manufacturers, employers, and workers. These latter products translate scientific information into easily understood material that meets these audiences' needs. The HLR program devotes substantial resources to the planning and production of information products for non-scientists because the OHC has a decentralized structure for these communications efforts, using research and support staff in the divisions where the research is generated (see Appendix D). The process of generating products that effectively transfers scientific outputs to customers who can use them has been a part of the HLR program for a long time, as evidenced by the production of the Hearing Protector Compendium and the Practical Guide fifteen to twenty years ago. But this aspect of the program has been enhanced in both emphasis and resources by the recent addition of the r2p program in the ORTT. The r2p program has increased the Institute emphasis on the transfer efforts in a way that challenges the HLR staff to be more proactive in this aspect of our work. In addition, the ORTT (which leads the r2p program) provides leadership, skills and assistance to help HLR program researchers to be more effective in the transfer of our outputs to customers. The new emphasis and leadership from the r2p program is expected to improve our rate of progress at successfully moving beyond program outputs toward intermediate outcomes.
Our information products include web pages, pamphlets, videos and external partner briefings and workshops. Most of these materials intended for non-scientists have been developed in recent years and mounted on the NIOSH HLR web site topic pages at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/ and at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/topics/hearingloss/hearingloss.htm.