NIOSH's Hearing Loss Prevention Unit Featured at Health and Safety Conference
Contact: Christina Bowles (202) 401-0721
May 31, 2007
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)'s Hearing Loss Prevention Unit, a mobile laboratory, will be featured at the 2007 American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition. The unit will be at the expo from June 4 though June 6, 2007 and open for attendees to come and receive a hearing test at no charge. The unit's presence at the conference is part of NIOSH's ongoing outreach to emphasize the importance of job-related hearing loss prevention.
Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common occupational diseases and ranks second as the most frequently self-reported occupational illness or injury. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 30 million workers are exposed to levels of noise on the job that can cause hearing loss, with an additional 9 million at risk of hearing loss from exposures such as solvents and metals. The industries reported with the highest numbers of exposed workers include agriculture; mining; construction; manufacturing and utilities; transportation; and military.
NIOSH's Hearing Loss Prevention Unit (HLPU) was created in 1999 with the goal of taking NIOSH hearing loss prevention research in the mining industry directly to employers and workers. The unit allows researchers to gather data at the worksite about noise exposure and the hearing levels of workers at the job site. Since its creation, the unit has traveled to 43 different locations. More than 5,000 hearing tests have been performed for miners, carpenters, auto workers, and other workers in various occupations. NIOSH works closely with stakeholders in developing research projects and determining suitable sites for the van, taking into consideration both the size of the population at the site and the location.
"As NIOSH focuses more efforts on eliminating occupational hearing loss, it is imperative that we continue to collect information about the extent of the problem and bring information to those most at risk," said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D. "The Hearing Loss Prevention Unit is a great example of how we are working to take our research and expertise directly to workers and employers, to help improve quality of work and life for workers and their families, and improve our ability to prevent hearing loss."
The unit is housed in a trailer and has a full hearing research clinic, testing booths for up to four persons, and a training and counseling area inside. It is equipped to perform a number of tests, including fit-testing of hearing protectors, testing new earplug insertion techniques, and evaluation and support to develop more effective hearing loss prevention programs.
NIOSH recommends a number of steps to help reduce workers' risk of hearing loss. The most effective means of preventing noise-induced hearing loss is to use engineering controls to remove and/or reduce hazardous noise from the workplace. NIOSH also recommends using hearing protectors, such as ear plugs and ear muffs, when it is not feasible to reduce the noise to a safe level.
Hearing loss prevention programs are also recommended for all workplaces that have hazardous levels of noise. Such a program should include: noise assessments; engineering controls; audiometric monitoring of workers' hearing; appropriate use of hearing protectors; worker education; record keeping; and program evaluation.
For more information about NIOSH's noise control and hearing loss prevention research and recommendations, visit http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/ or call toll-free 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit the NIOSH web page at www.cdc.gov/niosh/.
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