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Hearing loss research at NIOSH: reviews of research programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Authors
Committee to Review the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program (U.S.)
Source
Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2006 Nov; :1-203
NIOSHTIC No.
20033415
Abstract
Occupational hearing loss is a serious concern for many workers, although the number affected is uncertain. Using data from the 1980s and 1990s, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimated that at least 4 million workers in the United States were exposed to workplace noise levels that put them at risk of hearing loss. Some workers may also be at risk due to exposure to ototoxic chemicals. Occupational hearing loss may impede communication, contribute to safety hazards in the workplace, and adversely affect other aspects of workers' lives. In conjunction with planned reviews of up to 15 NIOSH research programs, the Institute of Medicine convened a committee of experts to review the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program to evaluate the relevance of its work to improvements in occupational safety and health and the impact of NIOSH research in reducing workplace illnesses and injuries. Relevance was evaluated in terms of the priority of work carried out and its connection to improvements in workplace protection. Impact was evaluated in terms of its contributions to worker health and safety. The committee was also asked to assess the program's identification and targeting of new research areas, to identify emerging research issues, and to provide advice on ways the program might be strengthened. Although responsibility for controlling workplace exposures to noise or ototoxins lies with others, the Hearing Loss Research Program can be expected to contribute to efforts to reduce the effects of these workplace hazards through its research and information dissemination. Taking into account several important factors beyond the program's control, the committee found that over the past decade (the period covered by this review), the Hearing Loss Research Program has made meaningful contributions to improving worker health and safety. Using a five-point scoring scale (where 5 is highest), the committee assigned the research program a score of 4 for impact, indicating that the program has made a moderate contribution on the basis of end outcomes (improvements in worker health or safety) or well-accepted intermediate outcomes (use or adoption of work by stakeholders). However, some of the program's work appears to be too narrowly targeted or directed to activities that are secondary to meeting the needs of protecting the hearing of workers. For this reason the committee assigned a score of 3 for relevance, indicating that often the research focuses on lesser priorities and is loosely or only indirectly connected to workplace protection. To enhance the relevance and impact of its work and fulfill its stated mission of providing national and world leadership to reduce the prevalence of occupational hearing loss through a focused program of research and prevention, the committee recommends that the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program foster effective leadership in program planning and implementation; further implement program evaluation efforts; gain access to additional intramural and extramural expertise, especially in epidemiology and noise control engineering; and initiate and sustain efforts to obtain surveillance data for occupational hearing loss and workplace noise exposure. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has included prevention of occupational hearing loss as part of its research portfolio since its establishment by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (P.L. 91-596). Occupational hearing loss is a serious concern, although the number of workers affected is uncertain. Using data from the 1980s and early 1990s (the most recent available), NIOSH estimated that at least 4 million workers in the United States were exposed to workplace noise levels that put them at risk of hearing loss. Some workers may be at risk due to exposure to ototoxic chemicals. Occupational hearing loss may impede communication and contribute to safety hazards in the workplace, and it may adversely affect other aspects of workers' lives. In conjunction with planned reviews of up to 15 NIOSH research programs, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) convened a committee of experts to review the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program to evaluate the relevance of its work to improvements in occupational safety and health and the impact of NIOSH research on reducing workplace illnesses and injuries. Relevance was evaluated in terms of the priority of work carried out and its connection to improvements in workplace protection. Research impact was evaluated in terms of its contributions to worker health and safety. The committee was also asked to assess the program's identification and targeting of new research areas, to identify emerging research issues, and to provide advice on ways the program might be strengthened. As part of a research agency, the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program can engage in such activities as conducting and supporting research; developing surveillance programs; developing and disseminating recommendations and related tools to aid in implementing best practices to reduce hazardous noise exposure; and contributing to the education and training of employers, workers, and occupational health and safety professionals. Although the Hearing Loss Research Program has no authority to establish or enforce regulations on noise hazards and the prevention of occupational hearing loss, the program can be expected to contribute to efforts to reduce the effects of workplace hazards to hearing. Overall, the committee found that over the past decade (the period covered by this review), the Hearing Loss Research Program has made meaningful contributions to improving worker health and safety. However, some of the program's work appears to be targeted too narrowly or directed to activities that are secondary to the goal of protecting the hearing of workers. To enhance the relevance and impact of the Hearing Loss Research Program's work and fulfill its stated mission of providing national and world leadership to reduce the prevalence of occupational hearing loss through a focused program of research and prevention, the committee urges several changes. The committee recommends that the NIOSH Hearing Loss Research Program take steps that include fostering effective leadership in program planning and implementation; further implementing program evaluation efforts; gaining access to additional intramural and extramural expertise, especially in epidemiology and noise control engineering; and initiating and sustaining efforts to obtain surveillance data for occupational hearing loss and workplace noise exposure.
Keywords
Hearing-loss; Hearing-impairment; Noise; Noise-exposure; Noise-induced-hearing-loss; Ototoxicity; Noise-control; Engineering-controls; Control-technology; Surveillance-programs; Education; Training
Publication Date
20061117
Document Type
Book or book chapter
Funding Type
Contract
Fiscal Year
2007
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
ISBN No.
9780309102742
Identifying No.
Contract-200-2000-00629; Contract-200-2005-10881
Source Name
Hearing Loss Research at NIOSH: Reviews of Research Programs of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
State
DC
Performing Organization
National Academy of Sciences
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