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workers, building, architect

NORA Manufacturing Sector Strategic Goals

927ZJKRa - Communication of Best Practices in Hearing Loss Prevention (PHP)

Start Date: 10/1/2009
End Date: 9/30/2012

Principal Investigator (PI)
Name: Thais Morata
Phone: 513-533-8487
Organization: NIOSH
Sub-Unit: DART
Funded By: NIOSH

Primary Goal Addressed

Secondary Goal Addressed


Attributed to Manufacturing


Project Description

Short Summary

NIOSH will partner with the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) to establish an award for “Success in Hearing Loss Prevention.” The Executive Council of the NHCA was consulted and agreed to participate in this initiative. This project will obtain information on real world successful hearing loss prevention programs currently in use in industry and disseminate it widely. NIOSH and NHCA have unique access to expertise and resources to develop specific evaluation criteria using scientific scrutiny, and rigorous analyses to determine Award recipients in a broad spectrum of industries and economic sectors. Both institutions are also in a strategic position to disseminate the knowledge obtained in the process to the hearing conservation community. The dissemination of evidence-based findings will enable other groups to effectively advance hearing loss prevention practice. This project is being funded by the manufacturing, services and construction NORA sectors programs (earmark).


This project aims to address this recommendation put forth by the National Academies review, by making it attractive to industry safety personnel to volunteer their success stories by nominating their hearing loss prevention initiatives for an award. With the award we aim to:

1. Establish a validated process by which industries can measure the performance of their health practices against accepted key performance indicators.

2. Use a rigorous systematic review process to capture and evaluate the successes and lessons learned.

3. Recognize businesses that uphold effective hearing loss prevention as a business value and document measurable achievement.

4. Share leading edge and best practices information for educational purposes worldwide.

NIOSH will contract with NHCA for the management of the award, including organization of the pre-conference workshop, dissemination of call for nominations, selection of the award committee, and technical site visits.

Businesses will be invited to submit their successful experiences in hearing loss prevention and enter a detailed description of their experience. Because of their leadership roles and expertise, NIOSH and NHCA are in the position to prepare draft evaluation criteria, identify an expert committee to finalize it, review applications and select the three best stories to be further examined in site visits to the companies. Initially, nominees could be from the manufacturing, construction or services economic sectors. Later this criterion might be modified. The completion of the project will rely upon partnerships for the scientific scrutiny of nominations and the input from the safety and health professionals who nominate their company for the award. A cash award will be given annually on the best success case by selected economic sector. The proposal of evaluation criteria for success in hearing conservation programs will be drafted based on the existing literature and input from partners. A one-day workshop will be organized to precede the 2008 NHCA annual meeting to reach consensus on robust criteria to characterize a successful hearing conservation program. Representatives from industry, labor, academia and government will be given an opportunity to offer input. Criteria are likely to include documented reduction in noise levels, documented reduction in threshold shifts registered longitudinally; quality of noise exposure and audiometric records; interviews with safety personnel, managers and employees; and observing procedures such as audiometric testing and hearing loss prevention training. NIOSH and NHCA will then disseminate these real world solutions in meetings, publications and online. The award winner will be asked to present their success story at the NHCA annual conference.

In 2006, following a recommendation from the National Academies to place greater emphasis on evaluation of the effectiveness of hearing loss prevention measures on the basis of outcomes that are as closely related as possible to reducing noise exposure and occupational hearing loss, NORA funded a Public Health Practice (PHP) project designed to establish an award for excellence in hearing loss prevention. The Safe-in-Sound Award™ was created to formally recognize and publicize the methods of organizations that have demonstrated excellence in hearing loss prevention programs.

In the past two years, NIOSH partnered with the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) for the management of the award, contracted research to develop the name and design the logo, trademarked the name, developed nomination and evaluation criteria for the award (criteria reviewed externally), created the website, and monitored visits to the website to quantify interest and evaluate the drawing power of different advertisements placed in various channels (trade journal ads or articles, other websites, NIOSH booth). Inaugural awards were presented in February 2009 and the second round will be presented in February 2010.

Valuable information on best practices for hearing loss prevention has been obtained through the award winning nominations. Now we propose to finalize the communication products drafted on the best practices and share those with others, providing industry and other stakeholders with reliable and appropriately packaged information describing proven approaches in hearing loss prevention. To achieve this goal we will finalize the materials drafted during the original PHP, develop a social marketing plan and disseminate communication materials. Social marketing plan and materials will be developed with stakeholder involvement to specifically address the interests and needs of stakeholders. Finally, we propose to evaluate the Safe-in-Sound Award™ project from two perspectives: the impact of the award application process itself and the impact of efforts to publicize the exemplary hearing loss prevention methods submitted for award consideration, as described below.


Communication products will be disseminated by using existing networks and alternative methods will be explored (groups in social or consumer generated media). Transfer will be assessed using existing communication network resources. Examples include: trade press (hearing products industry, and from sectors of the award recipients, which are not restricted to manufacturing, constructions and services since the innovation award can be given to any sector), internet sites, trade associations (from sectors of the award recipients), unions web sites. It is anticipated that the broad dissemination of this information will ultimately enable other groups to effectively advance hearing loss prevention practice.

The evaluation of the effects of the award's application process is twofold. We will investigate the process by asking a sample of users of the award website (traceable through the website and by information request received) to the reasons why they did or did not choose to enter the award competition. Interviewers (blinded as to the respondent's application status [applier or non-applier]) will collect data about the appropriateness of the award criteria, and the probability that the award program will lead to the diffusion of better hearing loss prevention methods. We will examine the perception among those who submitted an application on the match of the application burden to the benefits of participation. Secondly, we will explore the hypothesis that participation in the application process resulted in positive changes in hearing loss prevention efforts in the organization. Interviewers will ask samples of appliers to the award the extent to which knowing about the award and participating in the award process led the organization to make workplace changes to reduce hearing loss.

This project will also evaluate the effectiveness of the Safe-in-Sound Award™ project's efforts to transfer to stakeholders the best submitted hearing loss prevention methods. Those judged “best methods” will be prepared for distribution in various communications channels including the award website (, the NIOSH website, publications, and social and consumer-generated media. This distribution will occur in a controlled manner so that a follow up evaluation can be conducted. The hypothesis that exposure to the project messages will result in increased knowledge of the prevention methods, positive attitudes about those methods, and intention to use them will be tested. Responses of people who were exposed to the project messages will be compared to those of people who were not. A sample of the nominated companies will be visited by NIOSH or contracted experts. Open-ended interview methods will be used. The partnerships, close collaboration with stakeholders and the use of contracts were key to the success of our current PHP project because they expedited its progress. The proposed project will use the same mechanisms to achieve our proposed objectives.