Hearing loss from excessive or loud sound exposure has been identified as an occupational hazard since at least the time of antiquity.

For example, Pliny the Elder (29-79AD), a Roman naturalist and historian writing during the early first century, noted that noise was a workplace risk for fishermen of the upper Nile. A high rate of deafness among these workers was attributed to the constant noise produced by the rapids and waterfalls that the fishermen worked and lived amongst (Rosen, 1974).

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Noise-induced hearing loss was seen in the Middle Ages among miners and bell ringers, who were known to become deaf in their later years as a result of their work (WHO, 1997).

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During the Victorian era, the affliction of noise-induced hearing loss was known as blacksmiths’ or boilermakers’ deafness (E. E. Holt, 1882). During this period the Industrial Revolution introduced mechanisation and mechanically powered equipment to factories throughout the developed world, making high levels of noise exposure a daily reality for much of the working class.

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While originally seen as an unavoidable consequence of employment or even a natural form of protection from further noise (Weston & Adams, 1932), noise-induced hearing loss is now viewed as both undesirable and, to a considerable extent, preventable. However, despite the knowledge of the primary cause and effect relationship of occupational deafness for over two millennia, noise-induced hearing loss still exists and is very much a modern problem.

Source: WELLINGTON, Auckland.