The hearing conservation paradigm and the experienced effects of occupational noise exposure
Keywords:acoustic noise, biological effects of acoustic radiation, health hazards, hearing, safety, hearing conservation paradigm, occupational noise exposure, industrial noise, compensable hearing loss, personal protection, audiometric surveillance, acoustic environment
AbstractThe high prevalence of over-exposure to industrial noise is examined by means of an analysis of the paradigm of hearing conservation in noise and the characteristics of industrial workers' perceptions of the effects of noise. After considering the historical context and documents that have inspired the hearing conservation paradigm, the underlying implicit postulates and their influence on programs concerning industrial noise are examined. It is then demonstrated how the hearing conservation paradigm operates as a black box, allowing only the risk of compensable hearing loss as input and personal protection, audiometric surveillance and experts' reports on compensation claims as output. The absence of controversy around the paradigm itself is explained by the lack of awareness of the consequences of noise exposure and the fact that such consequences are not viewed as being serious. Alternative paradigms are proposed to improve the acoustic environment in industry
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