Occupational Hearing Loss (Ohl) Surveillance

Partnering with NIOSH on this Project

Partner with us! The Occupational Hearing Loss (OHL) Surveillance Project is currently partnering with audiometric service providers and others to share de-identified individual level worker data with NIOSH, including audiograms and related information.


Who are Project partners?
Project partners are audiometric service providers, occupational health clinics, hospitals and others who conduct worker audiometric testing. They may also include private companies conducting in-house worker audiometric testing. We refer to these entities as data providers.

What are the benefits for Project partners?
Partners will support vital hearing loss surveillance and research, and will get a first look at Project research study results before they are released to the public. We also invite inquiries regarding assistance.

What kind of data is requested?
All data must be de-identified. An arbitrary number or code is assigned to each worker by the provider. This number/code must remain consistent for the worker from year to year so that NIOSH can link all of the audiograms for each worker. The data requested for each audiogram include:

  • threshold values for frequencies 500, 1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000, 6,000 and 8,000 Hertz
  • gender
  • date of birth
  • test date
  • date of hire (if available)
  • race/ethnicity (if available)
  • smoking status (if available)
  • occupation (job) information (if available)
  • industry information (if available)
  • exposure data (if available and linked to the audiometric data)

How will the data be used?
The data will be added to a national repository for OHL surveillance and research. Data analyses will:

  • measure the incidence and prevalence of OHL;
  • identify industries with the highest and lowest risk of OHL;
  • measure OHL trends among and within industries;
  • examine workplace factors related to OHL;
  • provide information to guide workplace interventions and research; and
  • establish baseline estimates to assist stakeholders in evaluating the effectiveness of hearing loss prevention efforts.

What happens when I become a Project partner?
A NIOSH representative will guide the data provider through each step of the data sharing process. The main steps are:

Step 1. NIOSH and the data provider sign a data use agreementpdf icon to protect the data and rights of both entities.
Step 2. The industry (e.g., construction, mining) for each audiogram is identified and assigned a North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code. The data provider decides whether the data provider or NIOSH will assign these NAICS codes.
Step 3. The data provider merges the NAICS codes with the audiometric data so that a NAICS code is associated with each audiogram.
Step 4. The NIOSH representative assists the data provider in securely transferring the de-identified electronic data to NIOSH.
Step 5. NIOSH may request additional data from the data provider in future years, and the process begins again with Step 2.

Are the names of Project partners released?
No, the names of data providers who share their data with NIOSH will not be released unless NIOSH is compelled by law to reveal this information.

Is it legal for data providers to share data with NIOSH?
Yes, the HIPAA Privacy Rule recognizes the legitimate need for public health authorities to have access to protected health information to carry out their public health mission. Accordingly, the HIPAA Privacy Rule permits covered entities to disclose protected health information, without authorization of the individual to whom the information pertains, to a public health authority, such as NIOSH, that is “. . . authorized by law to collect or receive such information for the purpose of preventing or controlling disease, injury or disability . . .” [See 45 CFR 164.512(b)(1)(i)].

How do I find out more?
Please contact Liz Masterson at OHLSurveillance@cdc.gov or 513-841-4291.

Page last reviewed: August 12, 2019