Effect of excessive noise exposure on granite factory workers.
Noise is an invisible but insidious form of pollutant, which is increasing rapidly with the advancement in industrialization. Physiologically, noise is defined as a signal that bears no information and whose intensity varies randomly in time. Psychologically, noise irrespective of its waveform is unpleasant and unwanted. (1) Excessive noise exposure can cause both auditory and extra-auditory effects.
The most important of these is hearing damage resulting from prolonged exposure to excessive noise; another undesirable effect is speech interference or interruption of communication. Annoyance is a third undesirable effect of noise. (2) Industrial noise levels not only affects the turnover and the profit margins, but also causes annoyance and contributes to Occupational Noise Induced Hearing Loss (ONIHL). Psychological stresses leads to social isolation, excessive anxiety, irritability and low self-esteem in workers exposed to these noise levels each day and over a period of time. (3, 4, 5) ONIHL causes problems not only for the individuals concerned, but also for their families and co-workers. (6, 7)
ONIHL is defined as partial or complete hearing loss in one or both ears as the result of one's employment. World Health Organization (WHO) describes that exposure to excessive noise is the major avoidable cause of permanent hearing impairment. (8)
Occupational Noise Induced Hearing Loss (ONIHL) is the second most leading cause of hearing loss after age-related hearing loss. (9) A 16% of the hearing loss in adults worldwide is attributed to occupational noise exposure. (10) Various studies have shown that people exposed to noise level above 85dB(A) suffered from ONIHL. (9) Recent estimates indicate that hearing loss greater than 25dB(A) in the human hearing frequencies is regarded as a significant hearing disability by WHO. (11)
The damaging effect on hearing depends on the level and spectrum of the noise, duration of exposure to noise, how many hours in a day they are exposed, over how many years daily exposure is repeated and individual susceptibility to this type of injury. (12) The highest attributable fraction of adult-onset hearing loss resulting from noise exposure in the world comes from Asian countries. ONIHL is a serious health problem in Asia, majority of Asian countries are still developing economies where access to health services and preventive program are limited. (13)
As per Dobie's criteria, ONIHL is a sensorineural and progressive hearing loss with loss always being more at 30006000 Hz than 500-2000Hz. 5 Traditionally, loud noise produces an audiometric notch at 4000Hz known as "Aviator's Notch." (13, 14) However, few studies showed notch at 6000Hz. (15, 16) This notch typically develops at one of these frequencies and affects adjacent frequencies with continued noise exposure. (17, 18)
ONIHL is due to destruction of cochlear hair cells or damage to their mechano-sensory hair bundles caused by continuous noise exposure of >85dB(A) for 8 hours at the work place. (19) Granite stone quarrying is the most common occupation of many workers in Kolar district, belonging to Karnataka state in India. In India, NIHL has been a compensable disease since 1948. It is only in 1996 that the first case got compensation. (8) The quality of life of industrial worker is one of the prime factors for production, hence it should not be neglected.
The workers in the granite factories are victims to the hazards of excessive noise exposure at the work place. (2) Even though ONIHL is preventable, there is no evidence that this is realized in practice. Only few studies regarding the estimation of noise levels in the granite factories and auditory effects in workers due to noise exposure at these granite factories are available. Hence this study is aimed to study the effect of noise exposure on the granite factory workers in and around Kolar district.
The data was collected from workers in the granite factory and administrative staff belonging to age group >18 to <50 years after taking informed consent. Age matched exposed and nonexposed groups were selected based on the following inclusion and exclusion criteria. The exposed group consisted of 85 granite factory workers and unexposed group consisted of 85 workers in the administrative section.
a) Male subjects aged >18 yrs to <50 years exposed to noise from the granite factories.
a) Male subjects aged >18 yrs to <50 years from the administrative section.
a) History of consuming ototoxic drugs in past 3 months.
b) History of middle ear disease and head injuries.
c) History of hearing difficulty.
d) Use of any hearing aids.
e) Upper respiratory tract illness (Common cold, Eustachian tube block).
All subjects thus selected were given a questionnaire to collect information regarding their exposure status. A general physical and systemic examination was conducted in all subjects. Also a detailed clinical ear, nose and throat examination was carried out to rule out any unidentified pathology. The noise levels at different departments in the granite factory were recorded by using the sound level meter.
An assessment of auditory thresholds was done for different frequencies by using pure tone audiometer (ELKON-GIGA3) for both exposed and unexposed groups in a sound proof room. Descriptive statistical analysis was carried out on this data. Results on continuous measurements are presented as mean [+ or -] standard deviation and results on categorical measurements are presented in number%. Significance was assessed at 1% and 5% level of significance. The questionnaire data was analyzed by the Chi square test. AC, BC hearing thresholds recording was compared between exposed and unexposed groups by using the student 't' test.
Table 1. shows the assessment of hearing by questionnaire method. In the present study, 44% of the exposed population felt that their hearing ability was average or below average compared to 0% in exposed group (p value<0.01); 44% of the exposed population had difficulty in hearing over phone and in a crowd (p value<0.01); 35 % had to keep their TV volume loud and conversed loudly when compared to others in their families (p value<0.01); and 32% had history of tinnitus (p value<0.01) compared to none in the unexposed group.
Table 2, 3, 4, 5. shows the comparison of hearing thresholds between exposed and unexposed group in both the ears. It is evident that in the exposed group, the mean thresholds at frequencies 4000Hz (AC and BC), 6000Hz (AC) are increased compared to that in the unexposed with the significant P value of <0.001 at frequency of 4000Hz (AC and BC ) and 6000Hz (AC) in the left ear and also in the right ear it was statistically significant with a P value of <0.001 at 4000Hz (AC and BC) and 6000Hz (AC) respectively.
Chronic noise exposure is an important risk factor for NIHL. The workers engaged in the granite factories are victims of NIHL. However, data with respect to occupational health are scanty in our country. The industrial authorities as well as pollution control boards do not consider the need to prevent the hazards of noise pollution, because it does not jeopardize the employee's lives immediately after exposure. However, prolonged exposure which is the cause of many auditory and extra-auditory effects cannot be neglected.
The damaging effects on hearing depend on the level and spectrum of the noise, duration of exposure and individual susceptibility to this type of injury. (20) Relatively, little data exists on the continuous noise exposure in the granite factories as a risk factor for hearing loss, although the link was established over several years ago. Hence, this was an attempt to study the association between chronic noise exposure and changes in hearing thresholds in granite factory workers of Kolar.
The subjects recruited from the granite factories were age matched with the unexposed group. Quality of hearing in the granite factory workers was assessed by using a self-assessed questionnaire; 11% of the exposed group perceived their hearing to be significantly lower than the unexposed group; 44% had difficulty in hearing over phone and in a crowd; 35 % had to keep their TV volume loud and conversed loudly when compared to others in their families; 33% had history of tinnitus compared to none in the unexposed group.
The first difficulty patients usually noticed was trouble understanding speech when a high level of ambient background noise was present. Impairment of hearing at high frequencies will initially cause a loss of clarity in perceived speech and then interfere with daily activities as hearing loss progresses. As ONIHL progresses, individuals may have difficulty understanding high-pitched voices (e.g., women's, children's) even in quiet conversational situations. Symptoms like difficulty in normal and telephonic conversation, turning up TV and radio volume and tinnitus occur early. (21)
Difficulty in listening to conversation in these factories may be due to the fact that the noise emitted from the machines is more than 85dBA in the human frequency range. Therefore, it is difficult to distinguish between machine noise and human noise. (22)
The results of the subjective response to noise in the workers of the granite factories illustrate that there is a risk of decrease in hearing ability due to working in the predominantly noisy zone. (22) A study among traffic cops in Gujarat showed that 2.3% of the subjects felt that their hearing ability was below average.
A similar study done on traffic police men in our institution also revealed that the traffic police had a subjective response of difficulty in hearing and the cause being excessive noise exposure and non-usage of ear plugs/ear muffs. (23) A questionnaire based study done on oil mill workers in Kharagpur, West Bengal, showed that 63% of the total workers felt that noise interfered with their conversation; 16% were of the opinion that noise interfered in their work and harmed their hearing; about 5 % stated that the work room noise gave them headaches. (22)
A national telephone surveillance for prevalence of hearing loss done in Michigan reported that 29.9% of the population who had hearing loss was attributed to noise exposure at work. A large US analysis of self-reported hearing impairment in industrial sectors showed that highest number of employees with hearing difficulties attributable to the occupation was found in the construction industry, which includes the granite factories. (24)
Pure tone audiometry which is a simple, inexpensive, qualitative and quantitative procedure was used to record auditory thresholds. In our study, there was a statistically significant increase in air conduction thresholds at 4000Hz and 6000Hz in the exposed group compared to the unexposed group with a P value of <0.001 in both the ears. There was also a statistically significant increase in the bone conduction threshold at 4000Hz in the exposed group compared to the unexposed group with a P value of <0.001 in both the ears.
The presence of 4000Hz notch is a classical sign of ONIHL. The presence of 4000Hz notch may be attributed to many factors, the human hearing is more sensitive at 100-500 Hz due to the fact that the tympanic reflex attenuates loud noise below 2000Hz and also due to the resonance characteristics of the external ear to loud sound. This hard walled tube, closed at one end amplifies acoustic energy in the upper frequencies by about 10 decibels.
In addition, individual variation in the acoustic transfer characteristics of the external ear is a factor in the large variability in people's susceptibility to noise. Hair cells in the basal coil of the cochlea are the most sensitive to noise damage. They are responsible for transducing higher frequencies and this accounts for the high frequency hearing loss found in ONIHL. (25, 26, 27)
The threshold increase at 6000Hz seen in our study was also seen among air force personnel, musicians, traffic policemen. (23, 28, 29) The probable cause for the 6000Hz notch could be regular exposure to broadband frequencies of continuous noise. (28) Various studies have shown that ONIHL affected higher frequencies and mainly concentrated at 4000Hz or 6000Hz. (30, 31)
Thus it is suggested to implement the use of PPE's (Personal Protective Equipments) like ear plugs, ear muffs and not only should these PPE's be made available, but also periodic health checkups (Audiometry) and workshops should be carried out to motivate the subjects for their correct and regular usage, and duty scheduling has to be done for exposure limitation.
Ear protectors (Ear plugs or ear muffs) should be used where noise levels exceed 90dB (A). They provide protection up to 35dB. (24) The occupational exposures to noise could be minimized by efficient control measures through engineering controls, administrative controls, and the use of personal protective devices.
CLINICAL ASSESSEMENT OF QUALITY OF HEARING Quality of hearing Excellent, Above Average, Average, Below Average. Hearing over phone Without difficulty, Do miss some conversation, Miss a lot of what is said. Hearing in crowd Without difficulty, Do miss some conversation, Miss a lot of what is said. Sound of TV/radio Usually louder, Usually same loudness, a little louder. Do people often indicate that you are talking too loudly? Yes No Do people often have to talk louder? Yes/no Tinnitus; almost all the time, >once a day, about a day, about once a week, >once a year. Is it work related?
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Ashwini Priyanka V , Karthiyanee Kutty , Vinutha Shankar M. S 
 Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology, Sambhram Institute of Medical Sciences and Research.
 Professor and HOD, Department of Physiology, Sri Devraj Urs Medical College.
 Professor, Department of Physiology, Sri Devraj Urs Medical College.
Financial or Other, Competing Interest: None.
Submission 31-10-2015, Peer Review 02-11-2015, Acceptance 16-11-2015, Published 26-11-2015.
Dr. Ashwini Priyanka V, D/No-1267,2nd Cross End, Pipe Line Road, Robertsonpet Kolar Gold Fields-563122,
Table 1: Self-Assessed Questionnaire in the Exposed and Unexposed Group Self-Assessment EXPOSED (n=85) UNEXPOSED (n=85) ([chi of Hearing Loss square] Number % Number % value of of Subjects Subjects Quality of Hearing Excellent 8 9 85 10.0 140.753 Above average 40 47 0 80.0 Average 28 33 0 10.0 Below average 9 11 0 0.0 Hearing Over Phone Without difficulty 48 56.0 85 100.0 47.293 Do miss Some 37 44.0 0 0.0 conversation Hearing in Crowd Without difficulty 48 56.0 85 100.0 47.293 Do miss Some 37 44.0 0 0.0 conversation Sound of TV/Radio Usually louder 30 35.0 0 0.0 36.429 Usually same loudness 55 65.0 85 100.0 Do people often indicate that you are talking too loudly? Yes 31 36.0 0 0.0 37.914 No 54 64.0 85 100.0 Tinnitus More than once a 28 33.0 0 0.0 33.521 day/work related No tinnitus 57 67.0 85 100.0 Self-Assessment df P value of Hearing Loss Quality of Hearing Excellent 3 <0.001 ** Above average Average Below average Hearing Over Phone Without difficulty 1 <0.001 ** Do miss Some conversation Hearing in Crowd Without difficulty 1 <0.001 ** Do miss Some conversation Sound of TV/Radio Usually louder 1 <0.001 ** Usually same loudness Do people often indicate that you are talking too loudly? Yes 1 <0.001 ** No Tinnitus More than once a 1 <0.001 ** day/work related No tinnitus ** Highly significant with a P value <0.01. Table 2: Comparison of Auditory Thresholds for Air Conduction (AC) in Right Ear Among Exposed and Unexposed Group Frequency Auditory Thresholds(dB) P value Exposed Unexposed 250 Hz 17.24 [+ or -] 6.10 16.76 [+ or -] 5.96 0.612 500 Hz 19.06 [+ or -] 6.39 18.53 [+ or -] 6.21 0.584 1000 Hz 16.59 [+ or -] 8.14 16.24 [+ or -] 8.05 0.777 2000 Hz 17.29 [+ or -] 8.71 16.88 [+ or -] 8.63 0.757 4000Hz 21.59 [+ or -] 10.50 12.76 [+ or -] 6.20 <0.001 ** 6000 Hz 22.06 [+ or -] 10.16 11.59 [+ or -] 4.95 <0.001 ** 8000 Hz 16.47 [+ or -] 10.11 15.53 [+ or -] 8.31 0.508 ** Highly significant with a P value <0.01. Table 3: Comparison of Auditory Thresholds for Bone Conduction (BC) in Right Ear Among Exposed and Unexposed Group: Frequency Auditory Thresholds(dB) P value Exposed Unexposed 250 Hz 10.71 [+ or -] 5.68 10.82 [+ or -] 5.34 0.889 500 Hz 11.18 [+ or -] 5.81 11.00 [+ or -] 5.66 0.841 1000 Hz 10.94 [+ or -] 7.09 11.29 [+ or -] 6.82 0.741 2000 Hz 10.88 [+ or -] 8.42 10.94 [+ or -] 8.15 0.963 4000Hz 12.88 [+ or -] 8.43 5.76 [+ or -] 3.90 <0.001 ** ** Highly significant with a P value <0.01. Table 4: Comparison of Auditory Thresholds for Air Conduction (AC) in Left Ear Among Exposed and Unexposed Group Frequency Auditory Thresholds(dB) P value Exposed Unexposed 250 Hz 18.53 [+ or -] 5.39 18.12 [+ or -] 5.29 0.616 500 Hz 18.76 [+ or -] 6.17 18.24 [+ or -] 6.01 0.572 1000 Hz 18.35 [+ or -] 8.84 17.94 [+ or -] 8.50 0.757 2000 Hz 18.65 [+ or -] 8.67 18.18 [+ or -] 8.34 0.719 4000Hz 22.06 [+ or -] 10.59 13.06 [+ or -] 5.88 <0.001 ** 6000 Hz 23.59 [+ or -] 11.33 12.29 [+ or -] 5.43 <0.001 ** 8000 Hz 17.71 [+ or -] 9.93 16.41 [+ or -] 8.61 0.365 ** Highly significant with a P value <0.01. Table 5: Comparison of Auditory Thresholds for Bone Conduction (BC) in Left Ear Among Exposed and Unexposed Group Frequency Auditory Thresholds(dB) P value Exposed Unexposed 250 Hz 10.41 [+ or -] 5.78 10.59 [+ or -] 5.42 0.838 500 Hz 10.53 [+ or -] 5.62 10.41 [+ or -] 5.19 0.887 1000 Hz 11.41 [+ or -] 7.10 11.88 [+ or -] 6.50 0.653 2000 Hz 10.76 [+ or -] 8.22 10.88 [+ or -] 7.84 0.924 4000Hz 13.59 [+ or -] 8.58 5.88 [+ or -] 3.95 <0.001 ** ** Highly significant with a P value <0.01.
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|Title Annotation:||Original Article|
|Author:||Ashwini, Priyanka V.; Kutty, Karthiyanee; Vinutha, Shankar M.S.|
|Publication:||Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences|
|Date:||Nov 26, 2015|
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