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Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2011 Jun;84(5):577-90. doi: 10.1007/s00420-010-0606-3. Epub 2011 Jan 4.

A retrospective analysis of noise-induced hearing loss in the Dutch construction industry.

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Clinical and Experimental Audiology, ENT Department, Academic Medical Centre (AMC), Room D2-211, P.O. Box 22660, 1100 DD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Noise exposure is an important and highly prevalent occupational hazard in the construction industry. This study examines hearing threshold levels of a large population of Dutch construction workers and compares their hearing thresholds to those predicted by ISO-1999.


In this retrospective study, medical records of periodic occupational health examinations of 29,644 construction workers are analysed. Pure-tone audiometric thresholds of noise-exposed workers are compared to a non-exposed control group and to ISO-1999 predictions. Regression analyses are conducted to explore the relationship between hearing loss and noise intensity, noise exposure time and the use of hearing protection.


Noise-exposed workers had greater hearing losses compared to their non-noise-exposed colleagues and to the reference population reported in ISO-1999. Noise exposure explained only a small proportion of hearing loss. When the daily noise exposure level rose from 80 dB(A) towards 96 dB(A), only a minor increase in hearing loss is shown. The relation of exposure time and hearing loss found was similar to ISO-1999 predictions when looking at durations of 10 years or more. For the first decade, the population medians show poorer hearing than predicted by ISO-1999.


Duration of noise exposure was a better predictor than noise exposure levels, probably because of the limitations in noise exposure estimations. In this population, noise-induced hearing loss was already present at the beginning of employment and increased at the same rate as is predicted for longer exposure durations.

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