Temporary changes in hearing after exposure to shooting noise
International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health
Firearm is a common source of impulse noise that may potentially damage hearing organ. It has been suggested that otoacoustic emissions, particularly transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAE), might be more sensitive than pure-tone audiometry (PTA) in the assessment of changes to cochlea caused by noise. The aim of this study was to: (i) evaluate exposure to impulse noise from small-caliber weapons, (ii) compare the post-exposure changes in hearing measured by PTA and TEOAE and correlate
... OAE and correlate them with noise parameters. The study included 18 male hunters (group I) and 28 candidate policemen (group II) exposed to impulse noise from small firearms during target practices. Group I was unprotected during shooting, whereas group II used commonly available hearing protectors. PTA and TEOAE were performed before and 2-10 min after shooting. Exposure to impulse noise was evaluated by in situ measurements. Groups I and II were exposed to 3-4 and 4-144 impulses of noise at mean C-weighted peak sound pressure levels of 154 dB and 156 dB, respectively. No post-exposure audiometric threshold shift was observed in group I. Significant reductions of TEOAE levels were found both for the whole response (-2.2 dB SPL) and for 1/2 -octave band responses in the frequency range of 1000-4000 Hz (from -1.6 to -3.0 dB SPL). These changes were not correlated with C-weighted peak sound pressure levels or equivalent-continuous A-weighted sound pressure level. Significant correlation was found for peak sound pressure and maximum sound pressure levels in 1/3-octave bands in the frequency range corresponding with the main part of the acoustic energy of impulses (correlation coefficients r from -0.58 to -0.77, p < 0.05). In group II neither PTA nor TEOAE showed significant hearing impairment after shooting. The results show that even short-term exposure to impulse noise from small-calibre firearms might cause temporary hearing impairment measured by TEOAE. Therefore, the use of earmuffs is strongly recommended, because most of them seem to effectively attenuate impulse noise from small-calibre firearms.