Pulmonary and auditory function among experienced construction divers: a cross-sectional study

Aviat Space Environ Med. 1999 Jul;70(7):644-9.


We studied pulmonary and auditory function in a cross-sectional study of 26 experienced construction divers compared with 26 workshop workers matched for age, height, and smoking habits. The divers used air as breathing gas and performed open-sea bounce dives to a maximum of 50 m in sea water. The mean number of dives over a mean diving period of 20 yr (SD = 11) was 4746 (SD = 4743) (Range: 450-17000). Assessment of lung function included dynamic lung volume and flow and diffusion capacity (transfer factor) for carbon monoxide (TlCO). The auditory examination was performed measuring air conduction thresholds in a cabin. The results show a significantly higher mean forced vital capacity (FVC) of 6.01 L (SD = 0.88) in the divers compared with 5.67 L (SD = 0.84) (p = 0.045) in the controls, and an alveolar volume (VA) of 7.74 L (SD = 0.99) in the divers compared with 7.35 L (SD = 0.74) (p = 0.035) in the controls. There was a nonsignificant reduction in forced mid-expiratory flow rate (FEF25-75%) and a significant reduction in forced expiratory flow rate at 50% of FVC (FEF50%) among the divers of 4.69 L (SD = 1.41) compared with 5.76 L (SD = 2.03) among the controls of (p = 0.03). There were no differences in FEV1 and TlCO between the two groups. The divers showed reduced auditory function in their left ear compared with their right ear in the 3 kHz (p = 0.006) and 8 kHz (p = 0.022) area. No statistical difference was found in hearing thresholds of the divers compared with those of the controls. Our results indicate that exposure to diving may be associated with changes in pulmonary function and that the left ear may be more vulnerable than the right ear to hearing impairment in construction divers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diving / adverse effects*
  • Diving / physiology*
  • Forced Expiratory Flow Rates
  • Hearing Disorders / diagnosis
  • Hearing Disorders / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lung Volume Measurements*
  • Male
  • Maximal Midexpiratory Flow Rate
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / diagnosis
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Pulmonary Diffusing Capacity / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vital Capacity / physiology