Hearing impairment and tinnitus among older construction workers employed at DOE facilities.
BACKGROUND: Few studies have defined the risk of hearing impairment and tinnitus after retirement. This report measures hearing impairment and tinnitus prevalence among older construction trades workers. METHODS: The study cohort included 21,340 participants in a national medical screening program (www.btmed.org). Audiometric hearing impairment was classified according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. Tinnitus was determined by self-report. An internal subcohort of nonconstruction trades workers served as a reference group. Stratified analyses and multivariate analyses were used to measure the prevalence of hearing impairment and tinnitus by age, sex, and job category. RESULTS: Prevalence of any hearing impairment was 55.2% (males, 57.7%; females, 26.8%) and increased rapidly with age. Construction trades workers were 40% more likely to have hearing impairment than the reference group. The overall prevalence of tinnitus was 46.52% and followed patterns similar to hearing impairment. Workers with hearing impairment were more likely to also have tinnitus, but tinnitus was frequently reported in the absence of measured hearing impairment. CONCLUSIONS: Hearing impairment and tinnitus prevalence were much higher in this study than in previous research. A significant reason for the difference is that BTMed follows participants after they have retired. To draw conclusions about the risk for work-related chronic diseases and disorders it is important to monitor workers through their lifetimes. Also, tinnitus by itself should be given greater significance. These findings reinforce the need to promote noise reduction and hearing conservation in construction.
Ringen, K; Dement, JM; Quinn, P; Cloeren, M; Chen, A; Cranford, K; Haas, S
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