NIOSH studies hearing loss in farming, fishing sectors and subsectors

One in three workers may have hearing loss in certain subsectors

Posted February 27, 2018

A recent NIOSH study reveals the prevalence of hearing loss among noise-exposed workers in the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting sector is 15 percent. However, researchers caution that that number could be as high as 36 percent within industry subsectors — or one in three noise-exposed workers. The study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, is the first to estimate prevalence and risk for hearing loss in subsectors within the AFFH industry sector.

The subsectors identified as having the highest number of noise-exposed workers with hearing loss and an elevated risk of hearing loss include:

  • Forest Nurseries and Gathering of Forest Products (36%), which involves growing trees for reforestation or gathering bark, gum, fiber, etc. from trees;
  • Timber Tract Operations (22%), which involves harvesting standing trees to make timber; and
  • Fishing (19%), which involves (for this study sample) fishing for finfish such as tuna and salmon.

The study also found workers in the aquaculture (fish farms and hatcheries) and logging industries are at a higher risk for hearing loss.

Researchers examined the results of 17,299 hearing tests from workers employed at 458 companies in the AFFH sector. Certified technicians conducted the hearing tests for workers exposed to noise at 85 decibels or higher between 2003 and 2012 and shared the results with the NIOSH Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project.

While the study found that the prevalence of hearing loss in the AFFH sector has declined since the 1980s, it remains one of the industrial sectors with the highest risk for hearing loss.


 

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