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Noise Health. 2012 Jan-Feb;14(56):21-7. doi: 10.4103/1463-1741.93326.

Tracking occupational hearing loss across global industries: a comparative analysis of metrics.

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  • 1Alcoa Inc, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Occupational hearing loss is one of the most prevalent occupational conditions; yet, there is no acknowledged international metric to allow comparisons of risk between different industries and regions. In order to make recommendations for an international standard of occupational hearing loss, members of an international industry group (the International Aluminium Association) submitted details of different hearing loss metrics currently in use by members. We compared the performance of these metrics using an audiometric data set for over 6000 individuals working in 10 locations of one member company. We calculated rates for each metric at each location from 2002 to 2006. For comparison, we calculated the difference of observed-expected (for age) binaural high-frequency hearing loss (in dB/year) for each location over the same time period. We performed linear regression to determine the correlation between each metric and the observed-expected rate of hearing loss. The different metrics produced discrepant results, with annual rates ranging from 0.0% for a less-sensitive metric to more than 10% for a highly sensitive metric. At least two metrics, a 10dB age-corrected threshold shift from baseline and a 15dB nonage-corrected shift metric, correlated well with the difference of observed-expected high-frequency hearing loss. This study suggests that it is feasible to develop an international standard for tracking occupational hearing loss in industrial working populations.

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