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Impact of OSHA Final Rule—Recording Hearing Loss: An Analysis of an Industrial Audiometric Dataset

Rabinowitz, Peter M. MD, MPH; Slade, Martin MPH; Dixon-Ernst, Christine MS Hyg, CIH, MA, CCC-A; Sircar, Kanta MPH; Cullen, Mark MD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: December 2003 - Volume 45 - Issue 12 - p 1274-1280
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000100040.45929.42
Original Articles

The 2003 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Final Rule changed the definition of recordable work-related hearing loss. We performed a study of the Alcoa Inc. audiometric database to evaluate the impact of this new rule. The 2003 rule increased the rate of potentially recordable hearing loss events from 0.2% to 1.6% per year. A total of 68.6% of potentially recordable cases had American Academy of Audiology/American Medical Association (AAO/AMA) hearing impairment at the time of recordability. On average, recordable loss occurred after onset of impairment, whereas the non-age-corrected 10-dB standard threshold shift (STS) usually preceded impairment. The OSHA Final Rule will significantly increase recordable cases of occupational hearing loss. The new case definition is usually accompanied by AAO/AMA hearing impairment. Other, more sensitive metrics should therefore be used for early detection and prevention of hearing loss.

From the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut (Dr Rabinowitz, Mr Slade, Ms Sircar, Dr Cullen);); and Alcoa Inc., Alcoa Corporate Center, Pittsburgh PA (Ms Dixon-Ernst).

Address correspondence to: Peter M. Rabinowitz, MD, MPH, Yale University School of Medicine, 135 College Street, Suite 392, New Haven, CT 06510; E-mail address:

©2003The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine