Objective: To estimate the national burden of hearing difficulty among workers in US industries and occupations.
Methods: Data on 130,102 employed National Health Interview Survey respondents between the ages of 18 to 65 years who were interviewed between 1997 and 2003 were analyzed to estimate the population prevalence, adjusted prevalence ratios, and fractions of hearing difficulty attributable to employment.
Results: The estimated population prevalence of hearing difficulty was 11.4% (24% attributable to employment). The adjusted prevalence ratios of hearing difficulty were highest for railroads, mining, and primary metal manufacturing industry. Occupations with increased risk of hearing difficulty were mechanics/repairers, machine operators, and transportation equipment operators.
Conclusions: Hearing difficulty was differentially distributed across various industries. In industries with high rates, employers and workers should take preventive action to reduce the risk of occupational hearing loss.