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July 2012, Vol. 135, No. 7
Can you hear me now? Occupational hearing loss, 2004–2010
Luis Felipe Martínez
Luis Felipe Martínez is an economist in the Office of Compensation and Working Conditions, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupational hearing loss is a condition that results from exposure to noise or to nonnoise agents in a work environment. For example, loggers might experience hearing loss due to the loudness of their chainsaws, and professional disk jockeys might suffer hearing loss through listening to constant loud music. Occupational hearing loss continues to be a critical issue in the safety and health community. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 30 million workers are exposed to noise levels high enough to cause irreversible hearing loss. An additional 9 million workers are at risk of hearing loss from nonnoise agents,1 such as organic solvents, certain metals, and carbon monoxide.2 Sounds above 90 decibels can be harmful enough to cause hearing loss, especially when the exposure lasts for an extended time. (See exhibit 1.) Without preventative measures, many occupations — from assembly linesman, to airport baggage handler, to orchestra conductor — can experience permanent hearing loss from sources of noise in the workplace.
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1"Work Related Hearing Loss" DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2001-103 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001), http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2001–103.
2SangWoo Tak and Geoffrey M. Calvert, "Hearing Difficulty Attributable to Employment by Industry and Occupation: An Analysis of the National Health Interview Survey — United States, 1997 to 2003," Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, January 2008, pp. 46-56.
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