Auditory changes in mobile users: is evidence forthcoming?

Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2011 Apr;144(4):581-5. doi: 10.1177/0194599810394953. Epub 2011 Feb 14.

Abstract

Objective: Genuine concerns are being raised as to the potential health risks posed by electromagnetic frequency exposure secondary to mobile phone usage. This study was undertaken to assess and compare potential changes in hearing function at the level of the inner ear and central auditory pathway due to chronic exposure to electromagnetic waves from both global system for mobile communications (GSM) and code division multiple access (CDMA) mobile phone usage.

Design: Cohort study.

Setting: Tertiary referral center.

Subjects and methods: One hundred twenty-five subjects who were long-term mobile phone users (more than 1 year; 63 GSM and 62 CDMA) and 58 controls who had never used mobile phones underwent audiological investigations including pure tone audiometry (250-12 kHz), tympanometry, distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), auditory brain responses (ABR), and middle latency responses (MLRs). The changes in various parameters were studied in mobile-using and non-mobile-using ears of both GSM and CDMA subjects and corresponding ears of the controls to ascertain the effects of electromagnetic exposure.

Results: GSM and CDMA users were found to be at a significantly higher risk of having DPOAE absent as compared with controls (P < .05). They were found to have higher speech frequency thresholds and lower MLR wave and Na and Pa amplitudes. More than 3 years of mobile phone usage emerged as a risk factor (P < .05). The damage done was bilateral, with the quantum of damage being the same for both GSM and CDMA.

Conclusion: Long-term and intensive GSM and CDMA mobile phone use may cause damage to cochlea as well as the auditory cortex.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Audiometry, Pure-Tone
  • Auditory Diseases, Central / etiology
  • Auditory Threshold
  • Cell Phone*
  • Electromagnetic Fields*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory, Brain Stem
  • Female
  • Hearing Loss / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Otoacoustic Emissions, Spontaneous
  • Reaction Time