Almost 58 million Americans are exposed to loud noises at work and home, but too few try to protect their hearing, a new study finds.
“This noise exposure epidemic had not really been quantified at the household level in the U.S.,” said study senior author Dr. Neil Bhattacharyya, an associate chief of otolaryngology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.
“This degree of noise exposure has the potential to cause long-term hearing consequences with our aging population. Health care providers should actively identify and encourage the use of hearing protection in patients at risk,” he said in a hospital news release.
Bhattacharyya and his colleagues analyzed data from 240 million people nationwide surveyed in 2014. They found that nearly 22 percent were exposed to very loud noises at work for a least four hours a day, several days a week, but 38 percent of those people never used hearing protection.
The study also found that 21 percent of respondents were exposed to very loud noises in both leisure and recreational situations, but 62 percent of those people never used hearing protection.
One recreational activity where this was particularly evident was during hunting or target practice.
Only 58 percent of the almost 35 million people who shot guns in the last year used hearing protection. And 20 percent of those who shot more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the last year never used any protection.
Seventy-seven percent of gun-related noise exposure occurred during recreational shooting, the researchers discovered.
The findings were published March 16 in journal The Laryngoscope.
Employers and health care providers need to do more to identify dangerous noise exposures at home and work. And gun-related noise exposure among nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population requires further attention, the researchers concluded.