Noise exposure and hearing status among employees using communication headsets
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Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Łódź, Poland (Department of Physical Hazards)
Online publication date: 2022-08-02
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Małgorzata Pawlaczyk-Łuszczyńska   

Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Department of Physical Hazards, św. Teresy 8, 91–348 Łódź, Poland
Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2022;35(5):585-614
Objectives: The objective of this study was to assess the hearing of employees using communication headsets with regard to their exposure to noise. Material and Methods: The study group comprised 213 employees, including 21 workers of the furniture industry, 15 court transcribers and 177 call center operators, aged 19–55 years, working with headsets for a period of up to 25 years. All the participants underwent a standard puretone audiometry, extended high-frequency audiometry (EHFA) as well as transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) and distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs). Noise exposure from headsets was evaluated using the microphone in a real ear technique according to PN-EN ISO 11904-1:2008. Results: Personal daily noise exposure levels ranged 57–96 dB and exceeded 85 dB only in 1.4% of the call center operators. Forty-two percent of the participants had bilateral normal hearing in the standard frequency range of 250–8000 Hz, and 33% in the extended highfrequency range of 9–16 kHz. It was found that DPOAEs were present bilaterally in 59% of the participants. Reproducibility of TEOAE at >70% and signal-to-noise ratio at >6 was exhibited by 42% and 17% of them, respectively. The 3 subgroups of workers differed in age, gender, noise exposure and type of headsets in use. However, after adjusting for age and gender, significant differences between these subgroups in terms of hearing were mostly visible in EHFA. A significant impact of age, gender, daily noise exposure level and current job tenure on hearing tests results was also noted among the call center operators and the transcribers. The most pronounced were the effects of age and gender, whereas the impact of the daily noise exposure level was less evident. Conclusions: It seems that EHFA is useful for recognizing early signs of noise-induced hearing loss among communication headset users. However, further studies are needed before any firm conclusions concerning the risk of hearing impairment due to the use of such devices can be drawn. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2022;35(5):585–614
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