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Occup Med. 1995 Jul-Aug;10(3):545-59.

Noise, impulse noise, and other physical factors: combined effects on hearing.

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Work Environment Section, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, Helsinki, Finland.


In most of the epidemiologic studies conducted during the last 20 years, impulse noise caused increased risk of hearing loss in comparison to continuous noise with the same acoustical energy. The interaction between noise exposure (broadband at 100 dB(A)) and hand-arm vibration (125 Hz at 2 ms-2 acceleration level) has been proven for people having vibration-induced white finger symptoms. This interaction is evidenced as a permanent hearing loss. However, why the interaction is seen only in people with VWF is not known. The mechanisms may be related to individual susceptibility, and hypotheses are given on the role of the autonomous nervous system regulating the peripheral vascular reaction. Whole-body vibration (2-10 Hz, at 10 ms-2 level) seems to increase the TTS when noise (broadband at 90 dB(A)) is present. This effect is more pronounced at higher temperatures. The hypothermia protects hearing against the effects of noise in animal studies. The interaction between noise and temperature decrease seems obvious in animal studies. Exercise has both increased and decreased the TTS during noise exposure. The effects have been successfully explained as the depression of the stapedius reflex. Thus, less protection against noise is provided for the inner ear in exercise conditions. The increase of the blood temperature also has been suggested to increase noise-induced TTS during exercise. Electromagnetic fields have been found to cause acoustical interactions in the inner ear. Animal studies and human studies have given contradictory results on the effects of magnetic coil devices on hearing. The MR imaging devices produce noise levels of 82-93 dB, which is not sufficient to produce the risk of permanent hearing loss when short exposure durations are taken into consideration. More systematic research is needed with accurately defined electromagnetic characteristics to reveal the potential interactions. The interactions seem to exist, but relatively high levels and durations of exposure are needed to produce an observable effect on hearing. More investigations are still needed on the permanent hearing loss in humans caused by simultaneous long-term exposures to interacting environmental factors.

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