Workplace noise exposure and the prevalence and 10-year incidence of age-related hearing loss


There is paucity of population-based data on occupational noise exposure and risk of age-related hearing loss. Therefore, we assessed cross-sectional and longitudinal associations of past workplace noise exposure with hearing loss in older adults. At baseline, 1923 participants aged 50+ years with audiological and occupational noise exposure data included for analysis. The pure-tone average of frequencies 0.5, 1.0, 2.0 and 4.0 kHz (PTA0.5-4KHz) >25 dB HL in the better ear, established the presence of hearing loss. Participants reported exposure to workplace noise, and the severity and duration of this exposure. Prior occupational noise exposure was associated with a 2-fold increased odds of moderate-to-severe hearing loss: multivariable-adjusted OR 2.35 (95% CI 1.45-3.79). Exposure to workplace noise for >10 years increased the odds of having any hearing loss (OR 2.39, 95% CI 1.37-4.19) and moderate-to-severe hearing loss (OR 6.80, 95% CI 2.97-15.60). Among participants reporting past workplace noise exposure at baseline the 10-year incidence of hearing loss was 35.5% versus 29.1% in those who had no workplace noise exposure. Workplace noise exposure was associated with a greater risk of incident hearing loss during the 10-year follow-up: multivariable-adjusted OR 1.39 (95% CI 1.13-1.71). Prior occupational noise exposure was not associated with hearing loss progression. Workplace noise exposure increased the risk of incident hearing loss in older adults. Our findings underscore the importance of preventive measures which diminish noise exposure in the workplace, which could potentially contribute towards reducing the burden of hearing loss in later life.

Authors: Bamini Gopinath, Catherine McMahon, Diana Tang, George Burlutsky, Paul Mitchell
; Full Source: PloS one 2021 Jul 30;16(7):e0255356. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0255356.