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Industries that are most likely to cause hearing difficulties

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has published the results of a study that assessed hearing problems and tinnitus across several industries. Minnesota workers might be interested to learn whether or not they are at an increased risk of hearing and tinnitus issues.

The data was based on the National Health Interview Survey from 2007, which provides self-reported details on trouble hearing, tinnitus and noise exposure on the job. This is the first study to report estimates for the prevalence of tinnitus according to industry and occupation. It is also the first to provide hearing difficulty prevalence estimates.

According to NIOSH, hazardous noise exposure is a problem for about 22 million workers. Its study shows that among workers who have never been exposed to occupational noise, 5 percent had tinnitus, 7 percent had trouble hearing and 2 percent reported having both problems. Of the workers who were exposed to noise during their careers, 15 percent had tinnitus, 23 percent had trouble hearing and 9 percent reported having both.

The researchers found that workers who have jobs in the agriculture, fishing and hunting, and forestry industry are at an increased risk of trouble hearing, tinnitus or both. Workers in manufacturing positions have an increased risk of tinnitus or suffering both hearing difficulty and tinnitus. Workers with architecture and engineering jobs have an increased risk of tinnitus, and workers in the life, personal care and service, and physical and social science industry have an increased risk of trouble hearing. Additionally, the researchers discovered that workers in sales-related roles have a much lower risk of hearing trouble, tinnitus or both.

Minnesota workers who are exposed to hazardous levels of noise on the job might be entitled to workers' compensation if they are having trouble hearing, suffer from tinnitus or have both problems. The compensation could help them pay for related medical expenses such as hearing aids and other treatment.

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