Persistent Post-9/11 Hearing Problems Among World Trade Center Health Registry Rescue and Recovery Workers, 2001 to 2007

December 10, 2017
Hearing loss is a concern among World Trade Center Health Registry (WTCHR) enrollees. A previous study of enrollees who were WTC Tower survivors found that exposure to the cloud of dust and debris generated by the collapse and fires in the WTC Towers and surrounding buildings was associated with reported hearing problems. More recently enrollees have contacted the Registry to discuss concerns about hearing loss. Possible WTC-related causes for hearing loss include ruptured ear drums, head trauma from injuries, toxic exposures in smoke, dust and debris, or noise exposure. Our recently published study found that among those rescue and recovery workers without pre-9/11 hearing problems, 4.4% reported persistent hearing problems in 2006-2007. Men reported more hearing problems than women, and on average, those with hearing problems were older. The prevalence of hearing problems increased with increased numbers of WTC-related environmental hazards. Workers who reported being unable to hear in the dust cloud had over 2 times the odds of reporting hearing problems, compared to workers not in the dust cloud. This study has led the Registry to partner with the Fire Department of the City of New York in a study of hearing function before and after 9/11/01 among firefighters and Emergency Medical Service workers. Future disaster follow-up should include surveillance evaluation of hearing loss among responders.
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