Prevalence of hearing protection device non-use among noise-exposed US workers in 2007 and 2014

Am J Ind Med. 2021 Dec;64(12):1002-1017. doi: 10.1002/ajim.23291. Epub 2021 Oct 1.


Background: This study estimated the prevalence of hearing protection device (HPD) non-use among US workers exposed to hazardous workplace noise and provided risk estimates.

Methods: Self-reported data from the National Health Interview Survey in 2007 (15,852 workers) and 2014 (23,656 workers) were examined. Weighted prevalence and adjusted prevalence ratios of HPD non-use (using HPDs half the time or less when exposed to hazardous noise) were estimated by demographic, industry, and occupation. Differences in the prevalences of non-use were estimated and compared.

Results: The prevalence of HPD non-use was 53% among all noise-exposed workers in 2014. Workers in the Accommodation and Food Services industry had the highest prevalence (90%) and risk (PR: 2.47, 95% confidence interval: 1.54-3.96) of HPD non-use. The industries with the lowest prevalences of noise exposure, including Finance and Insurance (2%) and Health Care and Social Assistance (4%), had some of the highest prevalences of HPD non-use (80% and 83%, respectively). There were no statistically significant changes in HPD non-use among industries between 2007 and 2014. Among occupations, HPD non-use increased 37% in Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports and Media, and decreased 39% in Architecture and Engineering.

Conclusion: The prevalence of HPD non-use remains high; especially within industries and occupations with fewer noise-exposed workers. These groups need targeted attention to increase awareness and compliance. Employers should require HPD use and trainings among noise-exposed workers and provide an assortment of HPDs tailored to noise level and type, workplace environment, communication and audibility needs, and individual comfort and convenience.

Keywords: hazardous noise; hearing protection; occupational noise exposure; prevalence; surveillance.

MeSH terms

  • Ear Protective Devices
  • Hearing
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Noise, Occupational* / adverse effects
  • Occupational Exposure* / analysis
  • Prevalence