Hearing Loss Prevention: Burden, Need, and Impact

Burden, Need, and Impact

Occupational hearing loss, which is caused by exposures to hazardous noise (>85dBA) and ototoxic chemicals, is a serious concern for many workers. Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous workplace noise¹ and 9 million are exposed to ototoxic chemicals2. Occupational hearing loss is not confined to a single work sector: It occurs among any work sector where hazardous noise levels or ototoxic agents are present.  Some key statistics include:

hearing loss
  • Hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses and the most common service-related disability among veterans.3
  • Twelve percent of the U.S. working population has hearing difficultyand 16 percent of noise-exposed workers have hearing loss.4
  • While the Mining, Oil and Gas Extraction, Construction and Manufacturing sectors have the highest prevalence of hearing loss, all industry sectors have workers at risk for hearing loss due to noise and ototoxic chemical exposures. For example, certain industries within the Services sector have high prevalence of hearing loss.
  • For additional burden information, see the Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance topic page.

NIOSH strives to maximize its impact in occupational safety and health. The Hearing Loss Prevention Program identifies priorities to guide investments, and base those priorities on the evidence of burden, need and impact. Below are the priority areas for the Hearing Loss Prevention Program.

1Kerns E, Masterson EA, Themann CL, Calvert GM [2018]. Cardiovascular Conditions, Hearing Difficulty and Occupational Noise Exposure within U.S. Industries and Occupations. Am J Ind Med. DOI: 10.1002/ajim.22833.

2Morata TC, Dunn DE, Sieber WK [1994]. Occupational exposure to noise and ototoxic organic solvents. Arch Environ Health 49:359–365

3VA [2002]. Hearing impairment: Independent study course. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, http://www.publichealth.va.gov/docs/vhi/hearing_impairment.pdf

4Lawson SM, Masterson EA, Azman AS. [in press]. Prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers within the Mining, and Oil and Gas Extraction Sectors, 2006-2015. Am J Ind Med.

Page last reviewed: September 11, 2019