In the mid-1990s, the research agenda for the Hearing Loss Research Program emerged primarily from the development of the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) and the work done to prepare Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Noise Exposure (NIOSH, 1998a). This chapter focuses on the program’s more recent efforts to identify research directions.
As described to the committee, two activities figured prominently in recent efforts by the Hearing Loss Research Program to identify research needs. One of these was a Futures Workshop held in April 2005, and the other was the development of the Mining Research Plan. The Hearing Loss Research Program also responds to input from other sources, including findings in Health Hazard Evaluations (HHEs), the needs of stakeholders in regulatory agencies and elsewhere, and collaborative opportunities that arise in conjunction with the work of other agencies or researchers.
The Futures Workshop was planned as a way to develop research goals for the Hearing Loss Research Program for the next 5 to 10 years (NIOSH, 2006a). The meeting included 25 NIOSH staff members, most of whom were from the Hearing Loss Research Program, and 6 outside experts. Participants are listed in Box 3-1. The NIOSH participants included the Hearing Loss Research Program team leaders, who were leading work related to specific research areas, and program audiologists, engineers, and scientists from the Cincinnati and Pittsburgh research laboratories. The committee was informed that as many NIOSH researchers as possible were included to encourage internal discussion of research needs, opportunities, and goals.
The six outside experts gave presentations highlighting important issues in hearing loss research in biology and physiology, epidemiology, instrumentation, control technology, personal protective equipment, and speech communication. The workshop was described as including discussions after each of the presentations and a brainstorming session at the end to generate a list of topics for further consideration by NIOSH hearing loss researchers.
The research needs identified at the Futures Workshop and the discussion that took place at that meeting provided the basis for the section “Emerging Issues” in the evidence package from the Hearing Loss Research Program (NIOSH, 2005a). These topics are listed in Box 3-2.