Exposure to hazardous workplace noise and use of hearing protection devices among US workers--NHANES, 1999-2004

Am J Ind Med. 2009 May;52(5):358-71. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20690.


Background: To estimate the prevalence of workplace noise exposure and use of hearing protection devices (HPDs) at noisy work, NIOSH analyzed 1999-2004 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

Methods: A total of 9,275 currently employed workers aged > or =16 years were included in the weighted analysis. Hazardous workplace noise exposure was defined as self-reported exposure to noise at their current job that was so loud that the respondent had to speak in a raised voice to be heard. Industry and occupation were determined based on the respondent's current place and type of work.

Results: Twenty-two million US workers (17%) reported exposure to hazardous workplace noise. The weighted prevalence of workplace noise exposure was highest for mining (76%, SE = 7.0) followed by lumber/wood product manufacturing (55%, SE = 2.5). High-risk occupations included repair and maintenance, motor vehicle operators, and construction trades. Overall, 34% of the estimated 22 million US workers reporting hazardous workplace exposure reported non-use of HPDs. The proportion of noise-exposed workers who reported non-use of HPDs was highest for healthcare and social services (73.7%, SE = 8.1), followed by educational services (55.5%).

Discussion: Hearing loss prevention and intervention programs should be targeted at those industries and occupations identified to have a high prevalence of workplace noise exposure and those industries with the highest proportion of noise-exposed workers who reported non-use of HPDs.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Ear Protective Devices / statistics & numerical data*
  • Environmental Monitoring / statistics & numerical data*
  • Epidemiological Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry / classification
  • Industry / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Noise / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Exposure / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupations / classification
  • Occupations / statistics & numerical data
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Distribution
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult