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Can a hearing test predict a work related hearing loss?

"by " Albert Stein

A new test may be able to determine which people are most likely to suffer from work related hearing loss, so if you think your profession is doing your hearing damage, it may pay to consider a hearing test.

Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Health in Vienna1 found not all workers who are exposed to high levels of noise are affected by hearing loss to the same extent. However, there may be a variation in the inner ear due most likely due to genetics that means some people are more susceptible to hearing loss than others.

The study found that an indicator of just how susceptible people are to hearing loss is how quickly the cells of the inner ear are able to recover from noise exposure. The study states this can be detected by measuring the temporary threshold shift. This is a form of temporary hearing loss known as aural fatigue.

The test exposes people to frequencies between 200 – 500 Hertz at 100 decibels. After ten minutes, an audiogram at 4 kilohertz is performed. The amount of aural fatigue felt can indicate whether that person will be more likely to suffer from permanent hearing loss. The more aural fatigue, the higher the risks of permanent hearing loss.

No matter what your risk factors are, it is still important to safeguard your hearing in your workplace. Here are a few tips you can consider that may help you to protect your hearing.

While it is not always possible to completely eliminate loud noises from every workplace, it is essential to take all precautions where available. This could include everything from turning down the volume of the radio to only using loud equipment when strictly necessary

Ear muffs, ear plugs and other items are important as these can protect your ears from any excessive noise. These ear protectors should be provided to employees if required.

You can also ask your manager or occupational health and safety officer for hearing protectors if you think the noise could be potentially damaging to your ears.

*Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Early prognosis of noise-induced hearing loss. Accessed February 9, 2015. Available here.