It is often said that the U.S. and the U.K. are two nations divided by a common language. For example, Americans name the people who investigate occupational exposure and control methods industrial hygienists, whereas we Brits use occupational hygienists. But where noise is concerned, we definitely have agreement on the causal relationship between exposure and hearing loss, which has been observed anecdotally for centuries.
What is now referred to in an occupational context as noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) was observed in the early 1700s among copper workers in Italy. Later, towards the end of the 19th century, around the time of the first Industrial Revolution, Thomas Barr, a Scottish MD, coined the term Boilermaker’s ear after the first patients he observed (shipbuilders located on the River Clyde) who demonstrated the peculiar symptoms of impaired hearing. It’s easy to imagine the din caused by the impact of metal-on-metal when riveting.