The Dose Response Relationship between In Ear Occupational Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss
Published Date:Jul 03 2013
Source:Occup Environ Med. 70(10):716-721.
Ear Protective Devices
Hearing Loss, High-Frequency
Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced
Funding:1 R01 OH008641-01A2/OH/NIOSH CDC HHS/United States
R01 AG026291/AG/NIA NIH HHS/United States
Current understanding of the dose-response relationship between occupational noise and hearing loss is based on cross-sectional studies prior to the widespread use hearing protection and with limited data regarding noise exposures below 85dBA. We report on the hearing loss experience of a unique cohort of industrial workers with daily monitoring of noise inside of hearing protection devices.
At an industrial facility, workers exhibiting accelerated hearing loss were enrolled in a mandatory program to monitor daily noise exposures inside of hearing protection. We compared these noise measurements (as time-weighted LAVG) to interval rates of high frequency hearing loss over a six year period using a mixed effects model, adjusting for potential confounders.
Workers’ high frequency hearing levels at study inception averaged more than 40 dB hearing threshold level (HTL). Most noise exposures were less than 85dBA (mean LAVG 76 dBA, interquartile range 74 to 80 dBA). We found no statistical relationship between LAvg and high frequency hearing loss (p = 0.53). Using a metric for monthly maximum noise exposure did not improve model fit.
At-ear noise exposures below 85dBA did not show an association with risk of high frequency hearing loss among workers with substantial past noise exposure and hearing loss at baseline. Therefore, effective noise control to below 85dBA may lead to significant reduction in occupational hearing loss risk in such individuals. Further research is needed on the dose response relationship of noise and hearing loss in individuals with normal hearing and little prior noise exposure.
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