Risk Reduction for Occupational Noise: Effects of Education for Visual Comprehension Supports as a Means to Enhance Workers’ Awareness of Unsafe Noise Environments

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occupational noise, enviroments, risk reduction, Veterans Health Administration, hearing protection


In 2019 the Veterans Health Administration reported that a total of 3,651,672 individuals were compensated for auditory related injuries. In fact, out of all bodily systems, the top three disabilities to receive compensation were: tinnitus, musculoskeletal, and hearing loss (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Annual Benefits Report, 2019). Auditory injury data on veterans is reflective of civilians across America who, like veterans, work in and around environments that expose them to unsafe noise levels. Currently, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulates hearing conservation programs in workplaces where workers are exposed to sounds levels > 85 decibels on an 8-hour time-weighted average. Workers are provided with provisions for hearing protection and educated about unsafe noise levels. However, it is not possible for an individual to subjectively determine if a sound is >85 decibels. In order to rectify this, some workplaces post signage in designated areas or in break rooms, which serve to remind employees to wear hearing protection. This common approach is insufficient for helping workers understand which sound environments necessitate protection; particularly when a worker might be in the field, or working with a piece of equipment away from a facility where signage might be posted. Human factors psychology posit that awareness is necessary before compliance can occur. Compliance should then result in a reduced number of auditory related injuries. This study investigates a unique solution to the cascading failure of current hearing conservation programs by utilizing an interdisciplinary approach. Visual comprehension supports (VCS) in the form of stickers will be placed directly onto equipment that is >85 to aid the worker’s awareness prior to operation. The purpose of this study is to determine if familiarization (via education) of VCS prior to sticker placement will enhance worker’s awareness and/or comprehension of which sound environments necessitate hearing protection.

First Advisor

Lindsey Jorgensen

Research Area

Communication Sciences & Disorders, Audiology

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