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Noise Health. 2003 Jan-Mar;5(18):25-30.

Does health promotion work in relation to noise?

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  • 1Rikshospitalet University Clinic, Oslo, Norway.


Noise is a health risk. The only scientifically established adverse health effect of noise is noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Besides noise may affect quality of life and cause annoyance and sleep disturbance. The present scientific evidence of potential non-auditory effects of noise on health is quite weak. Whether health promotion works in relation to noise may be reflected by permanent hearing threshold shift development in population studies. Hearing impairment continues to be the most prevalent disability in Western societies. The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) still rates noise induced hearing loss among the top ten work-related problems. Recent studies report that employees continue to develop noise induced hearing loss although to a lesser extent than before, in spite of occupational hearing conservation programmes. Besides socio-acusis and leisure noise seem to be an increasing hazard to hearing, also in young children and adolescents. This seems partly related to acute leisure noise exposure (e.g. toy pistols, amplified music). However, population studies increasingly find non-normal high-frequency hearing including the characteristic NIHL-"notch" around 6 kHz also in subjects who do not report noise exposure incidents or activities. Today 12.5% of US children 6-19 years show a noise-"notch" in one or both ears (n= 5249, Niskar et al 2001). A Norwegian county audiometry survey on adults >/= 20 years n=51.975) showed mean unscreened thresholds +10 dB at 6 kHz for both genders even or the youngest age group 20-24 years (Borchgrevink et al 2001). Accordingly, the present health promotion initiatives seem insufficient in relation to noise and noise-induced hearing loss.

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