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Hearing loss among operating engineers in American construction industry.

Int Arch Occup Environ Health 2005 Aug; 78(7):565-574
Occupational noise exposure and noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) among construction workers has long been recognized as a problem in the United States, yet little is known about the prevalence of NIHL among American construction workers. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and characteristics of hearing loss among operating engineers (OEs) who operate heavy construction machinery. As a part of hearing protection intervention, an audiometric test was conducted for both ears at frequencies 0.5 through 8 kHz in the soundproof booth. Prior to the audiometric test, a paper-pencil pre-hearing test questionnaire was administered and an otoscopic examination was completed. Prevalence of hearing loss was determined based on hearing threshold levels (HTLs) in the worst ear with a low fence of 25 dB. A total of 623 workers were included in the analysis and they were predominantly middle-aged Caucasian males (mean age = 43 years, Caucasian = 90%, male = 92%). Over 60% of OEs showed hearing loss in the noise-sensitive higher frequencies of 4 and 6 kHz. The rate of hearing loss was particularly higher among workers who reported longer years of working in the construction industry. Workers showed significantly poorer hearing in the left ear, and a typical characteristic of NIHL, a V-notch at 4 or 6 kHz, was not shown in this population. Thirty-eight percent reported ringing/buzzing in the ear and 62% indicated having problems in understanding what people say in loud noise. Average reported use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) was 48% of the time they were required to be used. Significant inverse relationship was found between higher frequency (4-6 kHz) hearing loss and use of HPDs (r =-0.134, p < 0.001). Workers using HPDs more had significantly better hearing than those who did not. The study demonstrated a significant NIHL problem and low use of HPDs in OEs. An effective hearing conservation program, including a periodic audiometric testing and hearing protection intervention, for this study population should be in place.
Hearing-loss; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Occupational-exposure; Noise-exposure; Noise-induced-hearing-loss; Construction-equipment; Machine-operators; Machine-operation; Hearing-protection; Audiometry; Demographic-characteristics; Age-factors; Racial-factors; Sex-factors; Noise-frequencies; Hearing-conservation
Health Promotion & Risk Reduction Program, School of Nursing, University of Michigan, 400 N. Ingalls, Room 3182, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0482, USA
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Journal Article
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Disease and Injury: Hearing Loss
Source Name
International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health
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University of Michigan, Ann Arbor