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Noise-Induced Hearing Loss - A Preventable Disease? Results of a 10-Year Longitudinal Study of Workers Exposed to Occupational Noise

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Thomas W. Frederiksen, Cecilia H. Ramlau-Hansen, Zara A. Stokholm, Matias B. Grynderup, Åse M. Hansen, Jesper Kristiansen, Jesper M. Vestergaard, Jens P. Bonde, Henrik A. Kolstad

AIMS: To survey current, Danish industrial noise levels and the use of hearing protection devices (HPD) over a 10-year period and to characterise the association between occupational noise and hearing threshold shift in the same period. Furthermore, the risk of hearing loss among the baseline and the follow-up populations according to first year of occupational noise exposure is evaluated.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: In 2001-2003, we conducted a baseline survey of noise- and hearing-related disorders in 11 industries with suspected high noise levels. In 2009-2010, we were able to follow up on 271 out of the 554 baseline workers (49%). Mean noise levels per industry and self-reported HPD use are described at baseline and follow-up. The association between cumulative occupational noise exposure and hearing threshold shift over the 10-year period was assessed using linear regression, and the risk of hearing loss according to year of first occupational noise exposure was evaluated with logistic regression.

RESULTS: Over the 10-year period, mean noise levels declined from 83.9 dB(A) to 82.8 dB(A), and for workers exposed >85 dB(A), the use of HPD increased from 70.1 to 76.1%. We found a weak, statistically insignificant, inverse association between higher ambient cumulative noise exposure and poorer hearing (-0.10 dB hearing threshold shift per dB-year (95% confidence interval (CI): -0.36; 0.16)). The risk of hearing loss seemed to increase with earlier first year of noise exposure, but odds ratios were only statistically significant among baseline participants with first exposure before the 1980s (odds ratio: 1.90, 95% CI: 1.11; 3.22).

CONCLUSIONS: We observed declining industrial noise levels, increased use of HPD and no significant impact on hearing thresholds from current ambient industrial noise levels, which indicated a successful implementation of Danish hearing conservation programs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNoise & Health
Issue number87
Pages (from-to)103-111
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

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