Influence of leisure-time noise on outer hair cell activity in medical students

Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2006 Oct;80(1):25-31. doi: 10.1007/s00420-006-0090-y. Epub 2006 Feb 28.


Objective: Noise exceeding a certain level can damage outer hair cells and thus cause hearing loss. In the past, noise-induced hearing loss was mainly caused by occupational noise. Leisure-time noise may be a promoting factor, particularly in young adults. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether transient evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE) can be used to evaluate outer hair cell damage in young adults with no history of hearing complaints. The data obtained from the measurement of TEOAE were correlated with the participants' listening habits and exposure to leisure-time noise.

Methods: Eighty-eight young adults (47 women, 41 men; age 22.9+/-2.9 years) were examined. TEOAE were measured using standard ILO 88 equipment. All participants had normal hearing (hearing thresholds better than 20 dB HL; frequency range 0.125-10 kHz). None of the participants suffered from permanent tinnitus. All participants answered a questionnaire concerning their listening habits.

Results: On average, the participants frequented a discotheque 1.4 times a month; 25% had never visited a discotheque, 35% visited once a month and 32% twice or three times a month. Sixteen per cent reported transient tinnitus after every visit to a discotheque and 58% after nearly every visit. Eight per cent suffered from transient hearing loss after every visit to a disco and 37% after nearly every visit. Three per cent (4%) reported tinnitus (nearly) every morning after visiting a discotheque. The TEOAE level was above 6 dB in all participants [9.2+/-3.6 dB (mean +/- SD)] and reproducibility was above 60% (90+/-9%). All values matched pass criteria for normal TEOAE under clinical conditions. However, TEOAE levels and reproducibility decreased significantly with an increased number of visits to discotheques.

Conclusion: Outer hair cell damage could be measured using TEOAE in individuals exposed to leisure-time noise, although these individuals exhibited no measurable puretone hearing loss.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Audiometry
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Environmental Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hair Cells, Auditory, Outer / physiopathology*
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / diagnosis*
  • Hearing Loss, Noise-Induced / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Leisure Activities*
  • Male
  • Music
  • Noise / adverse effects*
  • Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous / physiology
  • Students, Medical
  • Surveys and Questionnaires