WHO Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region: A Systematic Review on Environmental Noise and Permanent Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Although sound exposure from personal listening devices (PLDs) could potentially lead to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), the actual hearing risk associated with the use of these devices is still unclear. In this study, early hearing effects related to PLD usage were evaluated in 35 young adult PLD users (listening for >1 h/day, at >50 % of the maximum volume setting of their devices) and their age- and sex-matched controls using a combination of conventional and extended high-frequency audiometry as well as transient-evoked otoacoustic emission (TEOAE) and distortion product of otoacoustic emission (DPOAE) measurements. The mean listening duration of the PLD users was 2.7 ± 1.0 h/day while their estimated average listening volume was 81.3 ± 9.0 dBA (free-field corrected). Typical signs of NIHL were not detected in the audiogram of PLD users and their audiometric thresholds at most of the conventional test frequencies (0.25–8 kHz) were comparable with those obtained from controls. However, compared with the controls, mean hearing thresholds of PLD users at many of the extended high-frequencies (9–16 kHz) were significantly higher. In addition, TEOAE and DPOAE amplitudes in users were reduced compared with controls. The deterioration of extended high-frequency thresholds and the decrease in DPOAE amplitudes were more evident in the users’ right ears. These results indicate the presence of an early stage of hearing damage in the PLD user group. Preventive steps should be taken as the initial hearing damage in these users could eventually progress into permanent NIHL after many years of PLD use.