August 29, 2019

NIOSH Examines Hearing Loss Among Oil and Gas, Mining Workers

A new study by NIOSH researchers found that 24 percent of noise-exposed workers in the mining sector and 14 percent of noise-exposed workers in the oil and gas sector had hearing loss. The study, published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, is the first to examine hearing loss prevalence and risk by industry within the oil and gas sector.

The prevalence of hearing loss varied across industries. In the construction sand and gravel mining industry, 36 percent of noise-exposed workers had hearing loss. Other industries in the mining sector with high prevalence of hearing loss include uranium-radium-vanadium ore mining, bituminous coal and lignite surface mining, and iron ore mining. In the oil and gas sector, 28 percent of noise-exposed employees working in natural gas liquid extraction had hearing loss.

The findings were derived from audiograms for 1.9 million noise-exposed workers across all industries, including 9,389 in mining and 1,076 in oil and gas extraction. According to NIOSH, no data were available for two of the largest industries in the oil and gas sector—crude petroleum and natural gas extraction, and drilling oil and gas wells—which indicates that more worker surveillance is needed. The agency notes that approximately 61 percent of all workers in the mining and oil and gas extraction sectors have been exposed to hazardous noise.

“Not only does noise cause hearing loss, previous NIOSH research has shown it is associated with high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol,” the agency says. “Chemical exposures may also pose a risk to worker hearing in these sectors.”

More information is available in NIOSH’s news release.