June/July 2014 (vol. 11/1)

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Research Plus

Hearing protection ineffective in practice

A retrospective cohort study of 19,911 workers aged 18–65, as part of the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Occupational Hearing Loss Surveillance Project, calls into question the effectiveness of hearing protection measures. More than 385,000 audiometric records from 2005 to 2009 were analysed. There was no difference in the OSHA standard threshold shift (a measure of hearing loss) between workers who reported never or always wearing hearing protection (OR = 1.23; CI 0.92–1.64) and no significant difference in high-frequency threshold shift (OR 1.26; CI 1.00–1.59; p = 0.0546). Inconsistent and intermittent use of hearing protectors may have contributed to their lack of effectiveness, but the study shows that hearing protection is no substitute for effective engineering control of noise.

Do hearing protectors protect hearing? American Journal of Industrial Medicine 2014; online first: doi: 10.1002/ajim.22323. 


Occupational Health at Work June/July 2014 (vol. 11/1) pp44