Noise-induced hearing loss is highly prevalent in the US and Canada, and noise is increasingly being linked to other non-auditory health effects such as cardiovascular disease, sleep disturbance, and stress. However, our knowledge of noise exposures associated with many US and Canadian occupations is lacking.
Setting and worker groups
Our study developed from existing resources a US/Canadian Job Exposure Matrix (JEM) for noise which allows for estimation of workplace noise exposures on a national scale. Exposure data were collected for as many industries and occupational groups as data were available for.
We leveraged existing noise measurement data obtained from a wide variety of regulatory and research agencies, the published literature, and industry sources to efficiently create the JEM, which contains estimates of mean noise exposure levels coded to standardized industry and occupation classifications, as well as estimates of the prevalence of overexposure to noise. We collected a total of 989,179 valid noise measurements representing 274 NAICS and 430 SOC codes. The measurement data span nearly six decades, with the first data available from the 1960s, and the most recent data from 2016. We conducted several related analyses, including a meta-analysis to compare data from government, industry, and the published literature and an imputation analysis intended to estimate exposures for job titles where no data were available.
Noise exposures have been decreasing in some, but not all, industries and occupations since the Occupational Safety and Health Act was passed in 1971. We used the results from our noise JEM to develop a web-based tool to allow epidemiologists, occupational hygienists, occupational health practitioners and other relevant stakeholders to access the noise exposure estimates. Dissemination of this free tool will inform campaigns for targeted exposure reduction, help identify and prioritize research needs, and help manage workers compensation claims. Development of the JEM directly addressed the cross-sector hearing loss prevention objective within NIOSH’s National Occupational Research Agenda, and also addressed several goals of Healthy People 2020. The primary study outputs were the national noise JEM, complementary web-based JEM tool, and several peer-reviewed manuscripts. In summary, this study focused on the translation and dissemination of existing knowledge to relevant end users (researchers and occupational health practitioners) for use and implementation in both workplace and research settings.