is reported to be exposed to levels exceeding the permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 dBA (sound level in dB after applying the A-weighting filter). In response, noise is considered by the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA; http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/nora) to be a high-priority research area for disease and injury prevention, and it continues to be a top priority in NORA-2 (NIOSH, 2005b).
In 1997, MSHA established health standards for occupational noise exposure aimed “to prevent the occurrence and reduce the progression of occupational noise-induced hearing loss among miners” (30 CFR Part 62). The 2001 promulgation of Title 30 in the Code of Federal Regulations (30 CFR Part 62), Occupational Noise Exposure, emphasizes the primacy of engineering and administrative noise controls and fuels increased interest in noise-induced hearing loss prevention research by all stakeholders, including universities, manufacturers, government offices, industry associations, labor, mining companies, professional associations, and foreign entities.
Strategic goal 2 of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Mining Program is to “reduce noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in the mining industry,” with the “… ultimate long-term measure of success … the elimination of new cases of NIHL.” While it will take decades to assess whether the Mining Program has achieved this goal, the Mining Program has more immediate and quantifiable goals of reducing noise exposure by 25 percent in 5 years and 50 percent in 10 years. These goals, while noble, are not under the direct purview of NIOSH or its Mining Program and can be achieved only with the cooperation of all stakeholders (manufacturers, other government agencies, management, and labor). For example, hearing loss that results from other sources can be hard to separate from occupational sources and would threaten the success of this goal. More appropriate objectives, such as the four intermediate goals listed in Table 9-1, involve producing the technologies and awareness that have the potential to reduce NIHL.
The intermediate goals in Table 9-1 are adequate and address the primary barriers to solving the noise problem. Adequate time lines and performance measures were given for each intermediate goal. Some goals—such as 1 and 2— are quantifiable, based on delivering the outputs of the research program (e.g., measured sound powers produced by a machine), monitoring the MSHA database for reports of hearing loss, and performing follow-on surveillance. Other goals—such as 3 and 4—are more difficult to quantify because they involve attitudinal and subjective data.