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Prevalence of Workers With Shifts in Hearing by Industry: A Comparison of OSHA and NIOSH Hearing Shift Criteria

Masterson, Elizabeth A. PhD, CPH, COHC; Sweeney, Marie Haring PhD; Deddens, James A. PhD; Themann, Christa L. MA, CCC-A; Wall, David K. MAS

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2014 - Volume 56 - Issue 4 - p 446–455
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000000124
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Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the prevalence of workers with National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health significant threshold shifts (NSTS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard threshold shifts (OSTS), and with OSTS with age correction (OSTS-A), by industry using North American Industry Classification System codes.

Methods: From 2001 to 2010, worker audiograms were examined. Prevalence and adjusted prevalence ratios for NSTS were estimated by industry. NSTS, OSTS, and OSTS-A prevalences were compared by industry.

Results: Twenty percent of workers had an NSTS, 14% had an OSTS, and 6% had an OSTS-A. For most industries, the OSTS and OSTS-A criteria identified 28% to 36% and 66% to 74% fewer workers than the NSTS criteria, respectively.

Conclusions: Use of NSTS criteria allowing for earlier detection of shifts in hearing is recommended for improved prevention of occupational hearing loss.

The work was performed at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cincinnati, OH.

Address correspondence to: Elizabeth A. Masterson, PhD, CPH, COHC, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 4676 Columbia Parkway, MS-R17, Cincinnati, OH 45226 (

No competing financial interests exist for the authors.

Copyright © 2014 by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine