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There are an estimated 16 million people working in the manufacturing sector, which accounts for approximately 13 percent of the U.S. workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, occupational hearing loss is the most commonly recorded occupational illness in manufacturing (17,700 cases out of 59,100 cases), accounting for 1 in 9 recordable illnesses. More than 72 percent of these occur among workers in manufacturing. These numbers are particularly disturbing considering that a person’s hearing loss must be determined to be work-related and the hearing loss must be severe enough that the worker has become hearing impaired, in order to be OSHA recordable. Many more workers would have measurable occupational hearing loss but would not yet have become hearing impaired.
Although a traumatic noise exposure may cause an immediate hearing loss in some cases, most occupational hearing losses occur so gradually that workers are unaware they are losing their hearing. The rate of hearing loss growth is greatest during the first 10 years of exposure. This means hearing loss prevention is especially important for new workers. However, with continued exposure, the hearing loss spreads into those frequencies most needed to understand speech. This means that preventing occupational hearing loss is also important for workers in their mid and late careers.
Strategic Goal: Hearing Loss Prevention
The NORA Manufacturing Sector Council has developed goals to guide research related to hearing loss prevention in this sector. These goals can be found on the NORA Web site http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/noraunder Strategic Goal 4 of the National Manufacturing Agenda. Comments are accepted any time.
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The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) is a partnership program to stimulate innovative research and improve workplace practices. Unveiled in 1996, NORA has become a framework for guiding Occupational Safety and Health research in the nation. Diverse parties collaborate to identify the most critical issues in the workplace. Partners then work together to develop goals, objectives, and an implementation plan for addressing these issues.