OSH-10 Reduce new cases of work-related, noise-induced hearing loss

National Data Source
Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (SOII); Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (DOL/BLS)
Changed Since the Healthy People 2020 Launch
per 10,000 full-time workers 
Baseline (Year)
2.2 (2008)
Target-Setting Method
10 percent improvement
Number of reported work-related non-fatal illnesses due to occupational hearing loss
Total number of hours worked by workers
Data Collection Frequency
Comparable Healthy People 2010 Objective
Retained from HP2010 objective


Methodology Notes

The SOII is a cooperative Federal - State program in which employer reports are collected annually from a nationally representative sample of private industry establishments. The survey measures nonfatal injuries and illnesses only and excludes the self-employed, farms with fewer than 11 employees, private household workers, and employees in Federal government agencies. For the first time in 2008, the SOII provided national public sector estimates covering nearly 19 million state and local government workers.

Noise-induced hearing loss for recordkeeping purposes is a change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram of an average of 10 dB or more in either ear at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz and the employee's total hearing level is 25 decibels (dB) or more above the audiometric zero (also averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 hertz) in the same ear(s). The incidence rates represent the number of illnesses per 10,000 full-time workers and were calculated as: (N/EH) x 20,000,000, where N= number of illnesses, EH=total hours worked by all employees during the calendar year, and 20,000,000=base for 10,000 equivalent full-time workers (working 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year. Information on the type of industry for the numerator is based on employer responses and converted to North American Industry Classification system (NAICS) codes.

Work-related noise-induced hearing loss continues to be a significant public health problem, accounting for nearly 10% of all recordable illnesses annually.

Caveats and Limitations
The SOII began tracking hearing loss in 2004, with technical support from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Although the employer reported data are useful, there are a few caveats to consider when assessing this data for work-related noise-induced hearing loss, specifically: • The BLS data are not a full sample. BLS samples a portion of the industries that submit data to the survey. • Most of the data recorded on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordkeeping forms represent hearing loss from only one sector – Manufacturing. Moreover, in several key industry sectors including Construction and Mining, hearing loss is substantially under-reported, thereby artificially suppressing the overall incidence of hearing loss. • To be a “recordable” hearing loss, workers’ hearing thresholds must be substantially poorer than their baseline levels. In fact, by the time a worker has lost enough hearing to be recorded on the OSHA Log 300, he or she has met the criteria for hearing impairment. Thus, recordable hearing losses should be viewed as a sentinel of hearing impairment rather than as an indicator of early stages of occupational hearing loss. Recent reports, including a 2009 GAO report, have questioned the completeness and accuracy of the employer reports included in SOII. BLS is conducting research to address the potential undercount in SOII, and NIOSH has recently begun research to increase understanding of barriers and incentives for workers to report injuries. Additionally, in October 2009, OSHA began a program to emphasize recordkeeping, including having OSHA inspectors review occupational injury and illness records prepared by businesses.

References and More Information

  1. BLS [2009]. Survey of occupational injuries and illnesses. Nonfatal (OSHA recordable) injuries and illnesses. Industry incidence rates and counts. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Safety and Health Statistics Program. See News Release USDL 09-1302, October 29, 2009.
  2. DOL. News Release. U.S. Labor Department's OSHA begins National Emphasis Program on recordkeeping to determine accuracy of worker injury and illness data. Washington, DC: Department of Labor, OSHA, October 1, 2009, O0-775-NAT. http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=16488
  3. Government Accounting Office. Workplace safety and health: Enhancing OSHA's records audit process could improve the accuracy of worker injury and illness data. October 2009, GA)-10-10. http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d1010.pdf00910.pdf
  4. Ruser J. Examining evidence on whether BLS undercounts workplace injuries and illnesses. Monthly Labor Review, August 2008:20-32.http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2008/08/art2full.pdf