Effective strategies in the prevention of noise induced hearing loss

Ian Laird , Kylie Johnston , David McBride , Karen Grimmer-Somers , Stephen Legg , Phillip Dickinson, Stuart McLaren, Dianne Gardner, Janet Hoek

New Zealand Acoustics, 24(3), pp.4- 14 . (2011).

Effective strategies for the prevention of noise induced hearing loss have occupied researchers, OHS practitioners and enforcement agencies for many years. This paper reports on the second part of a major study on the epidemiology and prevention of NIHL in New Zealand. The objective of the project was to evaluate existing work-related interventions to reduce NIHL, to identify critical factors in the development and implementation of such strategies, and to propose strategies/interventions where current interventions are considered ineffective. In addition, the research examined those aspects of workplace culture that affect decision-making around NIHL. A systematic review of the research literature was completed specifically focussing on the effectiveness of interventions in the prevention of NIHL and five key strategies were identified. Data collection methodologies were developed for specific industry sectors which were segregated into high, medium and low sectors of risk of NIHL. In addition to area noise measurements and personal dosimetry, assessments of the organisation’s conformance to current noise management standards and safety climate data were undertaken. As anticipated, area and personal noise exposures were found to vary considerably within the “high risk” (agriculture, manufacturing and construction; range: LAeq 8hr 80 - 90 dB), “moderate risk” (cafes and restaurants; range LAeq 8hr 60 – 75 dB) and “low risk” sectors (pre-schools; range LAeq 8hr 70 - 80 dB). Data on enterprise conformance with the Approved Code of Practice for the Management of Noise in the Workplace indicated that most enterprises surveyed did not conform to the specific requirements of the Code in relation to noise management. As a consequence of the research, a comprehensive multi level intervention strategy is proposed.