Age “Correction” in Hearing Conservation Programs

© peterschreiber.media – stock.adobe.com

By: Gregory A. Flamme and Kristy K. Deiters, Contributors

Employers may elect to adjust observed hearing threshold changes as an attempt to account for typical age-related change. However, there is no guarantee that age “correction” correctly represents the influence of age, and adjusted threshold shifts are not interpretable for individuals or small groups—because age-related changes vary widely across people. Further, age adjustments are only valid if they represent longitudinal trends.

Age-adjustment tables currently included in U.S. regulations are based on differences between small groups of people in the 1970s. Thus, employers choosing to age-adjust audiograms are making an implicit assumption that 1970s cross-sectional trends represent current age-related changes. Employers should carefully consider whether this assumption is reasonable.

We have recently developed age-adjustment tables using nationally representative data and validated them using a large occupational hearing conservation database (Flamme et al., 2019). These tables represent current population trends; account for differences in race/ethnicity; span ages 18 to 85 years; and match (within one 5dB audiometric step) median longitudinal changes among male workers through 30 years on the job.

Shallower cross-sectional trends were observed for people identifying with non-Hispanic Black race/ethnicity, and overall trends imply substantially less age-related change in hearing thresholds than is assumed in current U.S. regulations [see chart]. Employers applying 1970s-based age adjustments will substantially overestimate current age-related effects, and threshold shifts due to other factors (e.g., occupational/non-occupational exposure, disease) would be missed.

Regulations have not been modified to include recent adjustment tables, so employers must either (1) use tables that do not represent current trends; or (2) forego age adjustment. NIOSH has advised against using age “corrections” for decades and recent findings support that advice.

[Gregory A. Flamme and Kristy K. Deiters, are with Stephenson & Stephenson Research & Consulting Researchers are also and National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) Experts. Visit NHCA at: https://www.hearingconservation.org/]

Share on Socials!

Related Articles

Related Articles

Chemical Protective Gloves

“ChemRest makes navigating the challenges of chemical resistant hand protection easier for safety professionals by providing an entire chemical resistance portfolio of products, resources and tools ...
Read More

Breathing Safely: Simplifying Complex Respirator Fit Test Requirements & How Technology Can Help

By: Dave Risi, CIH, CSP, Contributor © navee - stock.adobe.com Respirators are the last line of defense between workers and harmful air contaminants, irritants and other ...
Read More

Navigating Laboratory Safety During a Pandemic

The following is an exclusive article written for Industrial Hygiene in the Workplace by Phillip C. Bauknight, Of Counsel in Fisher & Phillips LLP’s New Jersey ...
Read More

Follow IHW!

Leaders in Industrial Hygiene

 

AccuTec-IHS
BOWMAN Dispensers, LLC
ENMET
HafcoVac
ILC
Miller Electric
Nilfisk
OHD
SHOWA
TSI

 

Subscribe!

Sign up to receive our industry publications for FREE!

Industrial Hygiene

Construction Safety