Background: The purpose of this study was to investigate hearing threshold changes of workers with unilateral conductive hearing loss who were exposed to workplace noise for 8-years. Methods: Among 1819 workers at a shipyard in Ulsan, 78 subjects with an air-bone gap ≥10 dBHL in unilateral ears were selected. Factors that could affect hearing were acquired from questionnaires, physical examinations, and biochemistry examinations. Paired t-test was conducted to compare the hearing threshold changes over time between conductive hearing loss (CHL) ear and sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) ear. Results: The study included male subjects aged 48.7 ± 2.9, having worked for 29.8 ± 2.7 years. Hearing thresholds increased significantly in CHL ears and SNHL ears at all frequencies (0.5-6 kHz) during follow-up period (p < 0.05). The threshold change at 4 kHz was 3.2 dBHL higher in SNHL ears which was statistically significant (p < 0.05). When workers were exposed to noise levels of 85 dBA and above, threshold change at 4 kHz was 5.6 dBHL higher in SNHL ears which was statistically significant (p < 0.05). Among workers aged below 50, the threshold change values were lower in low-frequency (0.5-2 kHz) in SNHL ears, with a small range of changes, whereas in high-frequency (3-6 kHz), the range of changes was greater SNHL ears (p < 0.05). Among workers aged 50 and above, SNHL ears showed a wider range of changes in both high- and low-frequency areas (p < 0.05). Conclusions: At high-frequencies, particularly at 4 kHz, the range of hearing threshold changes was lower in ears with conductive hearing loss than in contralateral ears. This is suggested as a protective effect against noise exposure.
Park, S. J., Sung, J. H., Sim, C. S., Yun, S. H., Yeom, J. H., Kwon, J. K., & Lee, J. (2016). Comparisons of hearing threshold changes in male workers with unilateral conductive hearing loss exposed to workplace noise: A retrospective cohort study for 8 years. Annals of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 28(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40557-016-0132-1