Hearing status of people occupationally exposed to ultrasonic noise
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Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Łódź, Poland (Department of Physical Hazards)
Adam Dudarewicz   

Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Department of Physical Hazards, św. Teresy 8, 91–348 Łódź, Poland
Online publication date: 2022-03-09
Int J Occup Med Environ Health 2022;35(3):309–325
Objectives: The aim of the study was to evaluate the hearing status of operators of low-frequency ultrasonic devices compared to employees exposed to audible noise at a similar A-weighted sound pressure level (SPL) but without ultrasonic components. Material and Methods: Standard pure-tone audiometry, extended high-frequency audiometry (EHFA), transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE), and distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), as well as questionnaire surveys were conducted among 148 subjects, aged 43.1±10.8 years, working as ultrasonic device operators for 18.7±10.6 years. Their exposure to noise within the ultrasonic and audible frequency range was also evaluated. The control group comprised 168 workers, adjusted according to gender, age (±2 years), tenure (±2 years), and the 8-hour daily noise exposure level (LEX,8h) of ±2 dB. Results: The ultrasonic device operators and the control group were exposed to audible noise at LEX,8h of 80.8±3.9 dB and 79.1±3.4, respectively. The Polish maximum admissible intensity (MAI) values for audible noise were exceeded in 16.8% of the ultrasonic device operators, while 91.2% of them were exposed to ultrasonic noise at SPL>MAI values. There were no significant differences between the groups in terms of the hearing threshold levels (HTLs) up to 3 kHz, while the ultrasonic device operators exhibited significantly higher (worse) HTLs, as compared to the control group, in the range of 4–14 kHz. The results of the DPOAE and TEOAE testing also indicated worse hearing among the ultrasonic device operators. However, the differences between the groups were more pronounced in the case of EHFA and DPOAEs. Conclusions: The outcomes of all hearing tests consistently indicated worse hearing among the ultrasonic device operators as compared to the control group. Both EHFA and DPOAE seem to be useful tools for recognizing early signs of hearing loss among ultrasonic device operators. nt J Occup Med Environ Health. 2022;35(3):309–25