Occupational hearing loss poses a growing crisis for China

BEIJING–As was reported on this blog last week, WHO (the World Health Organization) estimates that there are 360 million people in the world with disabling hearing loss. Undoubtedly, a large percentage of them are in China, whose population of 1.35 billion is the largest of any nation and nearly a fifth of the entire human population.

What’s more, the rate of hearing impairment is increasing in China, at least in the workplace. So stated scientists who took part in the Workplace Noise Hazards and Hearing Protection Forum that was held in Beijing earlier this month.

As reported in the online publication ChinaDaily.com, the incidence of cases of occupational hearing loss rose by 78% from 2010 to 2012, according to data released by China’s Ministry of Health. An estimated 10 million Chinese are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work for an extended period for a long time and occupational hearing loss is now one of the most common work-related injuries in the country.

Lack of education is a major factor in the alarming increase in hearing loss in the work force, according to Zhang Baoming, director of the China Occupational Safety and Health Association (COSHA), who spoke at the forum. He said, “Many workers who are exposed to hazardous noise levels for a long time do not know that it will lead to permanent hearing loss. And once the hearing is impaired, it is hard to recover.” That’s why Zhang noted, “Prevention is more important than treatment in protecting workers’ hearing.”

On a more positive note, the very fact that the Workplace Noise Hazards and Hearing Protection Forum was held demonstrates that the problem of occupational hearing loss in China is not going unnoticed.

More than 100 experts in occupational-disease prevention and research and owners of manufacturing companies took part in the forum, which was co-sponsored by COSHA and the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Corp (China), known as 3M China.

Ding Hui, president of the Beijing Academy of Science and Technology, said, “Progress in noise control and hearing protection has been made by the government, especially since the establishment of Ear-care Day, which falls on March 3 every year.” But, he acknowledged, “Still more work needs to be done involving industries.”

Ding recommended removing hazardous noise levels from the workplace whenever possible and using hearing protection where dangerous noise exposure levels have not yet been controlled or eliminated. He also called for better compensation for hearing loss.

1 Comment

  1. I’d be shocked if anyone was surprised by this news.

    So many Chinese work long hours in manufacturing plants and are paid a fraction of a decent living wage. It’s not uncommon to hear about the inhumane working conditions in these factories, so are we really shocked that the managers at these plants aren’t encouraging their workers to use hearing protection, let alone even offering it?

    We often like to forget about these realities when we buy our cheap electronics at Wal-Mart and the like. Truly sad.

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