Noise-induced hearing loss in construction workers being assessed for hand-arm vibration syndrome.

House RA, Sauvé JT, Jiang D.
Can J Public Health. 2010 May-Jun;101(3):226-9.

BACKGROUND: Construction workers are at risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) but often have no periodic audiometric testing.

METHODS: The participants were construction workers assessed for Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS) at the Occupational Health Clinic, St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, Ontario. Audiometry was offered and 169 of the 191 workersassessed for HAVS agreed to have the audiometric test. The objective was to examine the prevalence of hearing loss in these 169 workers and to determine the effect on hearing of duration of work in construction (as a proxy for noise exposure) and the severity of vibration white finger (VWF) which previous studies have suggested is a marker for increased individual susceptibility for NIHL. VWF was measured by the Stockholm vascular scale.

RESULTS: All participants were men, median age of 57 (range: 28-75), median number of years worked in construction of 35 (range: 4-52). All of the Spearman rank correlations between years worked in construction and the hearing levels at each audiometric frequency were statistically significant (p < 0.001). Overall, 31 (18.3%) participants had hearing loss at or above the level at which a workers’ compensation pension would be granted in Ontario and the prevalence of this auditory outcome had a statistically significant increase as years worked in construction increased. Multivariate linear regression indicated that VWF also had a statistically significant effect on hearing loss for all audiometric frequencies combined after controlling for years worked in construction.

CONCLUSION: Improved prevention of hearing loss in construction workers is needed.

PubMed link to article