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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

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Emerging Issues

The NIOSH HLR program has a history of identifying and advancing an agenda of research on the most important issues related to occupational hearing loss. The 1998 NIOSH criteria document on occupational noise exposure identified nine research needs: noise control, impulsive noise, non-auditory effects of noise exposure, auditory effects of ototoxic chemical exposures, exposure monitoring, hearing protectors, training and motivation, program evaluation, and rehabilitation.  With the exception of non-auditory effects, the HLR program has implemented specific research efforts to address each one of the topic areas since the criteria document’s publication.  The HLR research goals outlined in this evidence package originated from these topic areas, with some goals overlapping multiple topics in the earlier set of nine research needs.  However, the field of hearing loss prevention is broad and continues to evolve and the work done so far has been insufficient to resolve the issues identified previously. Several new areas of importance to occupational hearing loss have emerged over the last several years, and the research focus in long-standing issues needs to be reexamined.  The NORA Hearing Loss Team has been active in evaluating research priorities (see Appendix H). With the work of the NORA team, and earlier NIOSH research needs as a backdrop, the HLR program hosted the “Hearing Loss Prevention – Futures Workshop” in April 2005 to seek input from a variety of outside experts as another step toward identifying emerging issues and redefining the HLR program research priorities.

New developments in engineering noise control hold the promise of reducing hazardous noise exposures through identification of noise hazards at the source and targeting solutions to create a quieter workplace. Promulgation of new regulations for noise exposure[1], recordability of hearing loss[2] and the potential for updated rules related to hearing protection devices[3] change the dynamics for hearing loss prevention programs and require new approaches to protecting the hearing health of workers.   In the area of risk factors, pharmacologic treatment of acute noise exposure and genetic testing for susceptibility represent new fields of research with challenges for occupational safety and health.  Progress in the area of training research, motivation and evaluation of hearing loss prevention program effectiveness brings the challenge and opportunities to address affected workers by transforming research into practical implementations that protect workers’ hearing. 

The following emerging research issues are presented in relation to the four general HLR program research goals:

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[1] ANSI A10.46 [2005]. Draft Standard for Hearing Loss Prevention In Construction And Demolition Workers, (American National Standards Institute, New York).

[2] OSHA 29 CFR Part 1904.10 [2002]. Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements. Federal Register, 67:77165-77170.

[3] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [2004]. CFR Title 40, subchapter G, 211, subpart B—Hearing Protective Devices, U.S. EPA.

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