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Surveillance: Noise and Hearing Loss Research Results

NIOSH Occupational Noise and Hearing Survey (ONHS): Evaluation of the Risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Male Industrial Workers

Data is now available from the 1968 - 1972 NIOSH Occupational Noise and Hearing Survey (ONHS): Evaluation of the Risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss in Male Industrial Workers. NIOSH has completed a series of published research papers that provide a detailed analysis of noise and hearing data collected during 1968-72 as part of the NIOSH Occupational Noise and Hearing Survey. The first NIOSH Criteria Document (1972) presented risk estimates of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) based on analysis of 1172 male workers who were highly screened to exclude workers with various hearing loss risk factors.

NIOSH revised the criteria document in 1998 with an updated risk assessment of these 1172 male workers (Prince et al., 1997). NIOSH later expanded the number of workers in the screened database to include 894 workers with other risk factors for hearing loss. The analysis of the total unscreened ONHS database has been recently published in two journal articles (Prince, 2002; Prince et al., 2003). The analysis of total unscreened industrial workers found that variability in background risk and distribution of various risk factors for hearing loss may explain some of the diversity in excess of noise-induced hearing loss.

The following are the raw data files in MS Excel for (a) the screened population (used for NIOSH Criteria document risk assessment and 1997 Prince et al paper) and (b) the total unscreened population analyzed and published in 2002-2003. Accompanying the data files, download the documentation of the data variable files.


The references listed below can be obtained by contacting Dr. Mary Prince ( and requesting reprints or by ordering directly from the journal.

  • Prince MM, Gilbert SJ, Smith RJ., Stayner, LT (2003). Evaluation of the risk of noise-induced hearing loss among unscreened male industrial workers. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 113(2) 871-880.
  • Prince, MM (2002). Distribution of risk factors for hearing loss: Implications for evaluating risk of occupational noise-induced hearing loss J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 112(2): 557-567.
    View abstract and obtain copy from Online Journal Publication Service
  • Prince MM, Stayner, LT, Smith RJ, Gilbert SJ (1997). A re-examination of risk estimates from the NIOSH occupational noise and hearing survey (ONHS). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 101(2):950-963.

Noise Exposure Assessment and Abatement Strategies at an Indoor Firing Range

Exposure to hazardous impulse noise is common during the firing of weapons at indoor firing ranges. The aims of this study were to characterize the impulse noise environment at a law enforcement firing range; document the insufficiencies found at the range from a health and safety standpoint; and provide noise abatement recommendations to reduce the overall health hazard to the auditory system.

Kardous CA, Willson RD, Hayden CS, Szlapa P, Murphy WJ, Reeves ER. (2003) Noise exposure assessment and abatement strategies at an indoor firing range. Appl Occup Environ Hyg 18(8):629-636.

Alternative Field Methods for Measuring Hearing Protector Performance

This article compares three field methods for measuring hearing protector performance with the accepted laboratory method. Hearing protectors are evaluated by how much sound is attenuated at several frequencies. A subject is asked to identify when noise is just audible for two the cases: with and without hearing protection. The differences are measured at several frequencies. The field methods included a test using large headphones that enclosed the external ear, a test using speakers in a small testing booth and a third method based on loudness matching. None of the three methods was found to be significantly different from the laboratory method, however, the lack of precision in the loudness matching method proved to be unacceptable for use in an industrial setting. The other field methods demonstrated acceptable agreement with the laboratory method.

Franks JR, Murphy WJ, Harris DA, Johnson JL, Shaw PB. (2003). Alternative Field Methods for Measuring Hearing Protector Performance. American Industrial Hygiene Association Journal. 64:501-509.

Development of a new standard laboratory protocol for estimation of the field attenuation of hearing protection devices: Sample size necessary to provide acceptable reproducibility

This article examines the variability of hearing protector measurements conducted in two different studies. The first study compared four laboratories, four protectors, two fitting protocols and 24 subjects per laboratory. The second study compared two laboratories, two protectors, two fitting protocols and a total of 51 subjects. The analysis of the results estimated the variability within subjects, between subjects and between laboratories. Appropriate combination of the variances yielded estimates of the reproducibility and repeatability that can be expected for both intra- and inter-laboratory comparisons. In most cases, the reproducibility for real ear attenuation at threshold measurements was poorest for the 8000 Hz frequency. The paper develops formulae that can be used for estimating the precision of a set of measurements and the necessary sample size to yield a given precision. The results of the interlaboratory studies were used as the basic guidelines for testing 10 subjects for earmuffs and 20 subjects for earplugs in the ANSI S12.6-1997 American National Standard Method for Measuring of the Real-ear Attenuation at Threshold for Hearing Protectors.

Murphy WJ et al. (2003). Development of a new standard laboratory protocol for estimation of the field attenuation of hearing protection devices: Sample size necessary to provide acceptable reproducibility. J. Acoust. Soc. Am.
115: 311-323
adobe acrobat icon PDF 771KB (12 pages)

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