55% of American construction workers have a hearing loss, a study shows.
In the study, the prevalence of hearing loss increased rapidly with age from 16.1% among those under 45 to 86.4% among those older than 65 years.
Hearing loss also varied substantially by race with 30.2% among African-American workers, 49.5% among Hispanics, 56% among Asians, 61.7% among Caucasians and 65.7% among those classified as Alaskan or Indian.
Male vs. female
Females were much less likely to have a hearing loss than men. 22.8% of the females had a hearing loss compared to 60.9% among men. The lower prevalence of hearing loss among females is partially accounted for by job assignment and less frequently reported exposure to loud or very loud noise, according to the study.
Duration of work
Duration of trade work increased the risk of hearing loss substantially. Those who had been construction workers for more than 30 years had a 3.8 times increased risk of hearing loss compared with those who had worked in construction for less than 10 years.
Exposure to noise
Loud or very loud noise was also significantly associated with hearing loss with a risk ratio of 1.20 for those exposed to noise more than 90% of the time.
Other risk factors
Exposure to organic solvents was also significantly associated with hearing loss.
In the study, both current and past smokers were at significantly increased risk compared to those who had never smoked.
Higher risk for construction workers
The risk of hearing impairment among construction workers was substantially higher than among a control group of industrial workers having been exposed to noise levels above 80 dBA.
About the study
The study was based on a sample of more than 19,000 workers who had participated in the Building Trades Medical Screening Program (BTMed).
Audiometric tests were conducted at frequencies from 500-8000 Hz.
Hearing loss was defined as a binaural average threshold of greater than 25 dB calculated as the articulation index weighted average across frequencies of 1, 2, 3 and 4 kHz.
The study “Hearing loss among older construction works: Updated Analyses” was published in American Journal of Industrial Medicine in 2018.
Source: American Journal of Industrial Medicine