OCCUPATIONAL HEARING LOSS (OHL) SURVEILLANCE
In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences identified the lack of hearing loss surveillance as a key shortcoming of the NIOSH Hearing Loss Prevention Research Program. Surveillance is vital to occupational hearing loss (OHL) prevention. It makes possible the establishment of estimates for the prevalence and incidence of hearing loss within various industries. Surveillance also enables NIOSH to identify high risk groups, guide prevention and research efforts, and evaluate the success or failure of interventions. Without surveillance data, progress in hearing loss prevention efforts cannot be quantified, nor the need for improvement in these efforts.
In 2009, the NIOSH OHL Surveillance Project commenced to develop a national surveillance system for OHL. The Project uses a novel approach for data collection by partnering with audiometric service providers and others to collect de-identified worker audiograms and related data. This approach has allowed NIOSH to collect millions of de-identified audiograms from thousands of workplaces across the United States while protecting the identities of workers, companies and providers. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)external icon is used to classify the industry associated with each audiogram. Data collection, statistical analyses and dissemination of research results are ongoing.
NIOSH has partnered with a range of data providers, and millions of private sector audiograms of varying quality with related demographic data have been collected. NIOSH continues to seek new partners, including audiometric service providers, occupational health clinics, hospitals and others who conduct worker audiometric testing. FAQs on partnering can be found here. Datasets from two published articles and Project publications analyzing these and other data are available. NIOSH has also partnered with the United States Air Force (USAF) to study hearing loss at it relates to military occupations and noise and chemical exposures on the job. Millions of USAF audiograms have been collected thus far.
- 2019 – Honorable Mention, NIOSH Alice Hamilton Award for Excellence in Occupational Safety and Health for Project article “Prevalence of Hearing Loss among Noise-Exposed Workers within the Mining, and Oil and Gas Extraction Sectors, 2006-2015”
- 2017 – NIOSH Alice Hamilton Award for Excellence in Occupational Safety and Health for Project article “Hearing Impairment Among Noise-Exposed Workers — United States, 2003–2012”
- 2017 – Federal Executive Board Federal Service Excellence Award: Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project Team
- 2017 – NIOSH nomination for CDC Charles C. Shepard Science Award for Project article “Hearing difficulty and tinnitus among U.S. workers and non-workers in 2007”
- 2017 – NIOSH nomination for CDC Surveillance and Health Monitoring Award for the Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project
- 2015 – National Hearing Conservation Association Readers Choice Award for Project article “Prevalence of hearing loss in the United States by industry”
- 2014 – NIOSH nomination for CDC Charles C. Shepard Science Award for Project article “Prevalence of hearing loss in the United States by industry”
- 2013 – NIOSH nomination for CDC Excellence in Public Health Service – Diane Caves Early Career Award “for exemplary job performance to prevent occupational hearing loss”