Many workers in service industries have an elevated risk of hearing loss due to exposure to noise, according to new research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Typically, the mining, construction, and manufacturing sectors are recognized as having a high percentage of workers exposed to hazard noise and, therefore, at higher risk for hearing loss.

But the new research from NIOSH identified sub-sectors within the services industries that were also at higher risk for hearing loss.

These sub-sectors include newspaper, music and software publishing; renting and leasing; financial transactions; legal advice and representation; overseeing and managing governmental programs; security and surveillance; educational training; entertainment and recreation; accommodations and food service; machinery repairing; dry cleaning and laundry; and landscaping.

Researchers examined audiograms for 1.9 million noise-exposed workers across all industries, including for 158,436 services workers.


Their main findings included:

  • The prevalence of hearing loss within services was 17%, very close to the prevalence of all industries combined of 16%
  • Many services industries sub-sectors greatly exceeded the overall prevalence by large percentages—10 to 33% higher—and many had high risks for hearing loss
  • Workers in administration of urban planning and community and rural development had the highest prevalence at 50%, while workers in solid waste combustors and incinerators had more than double the risk, the highest of any sub-sector
  • Some sub-sectors traditionally viewed as ‘low-risk’ also had higher than expected prevalences and/or risks, including professional and technical services and schools

Additional Risks

Workers who are exposed to hazardous noise or chemicals that damage hearing can experience occupational hearing loss.

Hazardous noise exposure is also associated with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Hearing loss often co-occurs with tinnitus, also called ringing in the ears, and is associated with depression and cognitive decline.

To prevent occupational hearing loss, NIOSH recommends removing or reducing noise at the source, using the hierarchy of controls, and when not possible, implementing an effective hearing conservation program.

NIOSH said additional research and surveillance are needed to identify at-risk workers in the services industries sub-sectors and protect their hearing through targeted interventions.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Phillip Montgomery (860.244.1982).