Potential health risks of exposure to noise from personal music

Potential health risks of exposure to noise from personal music
Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks
SCENIHR
Potential health risks of exposure to noise from personal music
players and mobile phones including a music playing function
The SCENIHR adopted this opinion at the 26th plenary on 23 September 2008, after
public consultation.
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
About the Scientific Committees
Three independent non-food Scientific Committees provide the Commission with the
scientific advice it needs when preparing policy and proposals relating to consumer
safety, public health and the environment. The Committees also draw the Commission's
attention to the new or emerging problems which may pose an actual or potential threat.
They are: the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP), the Scientific
Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER) and the Scientific Committee on
Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) and are made up of external
experts.
In addition, the Commission relies upon the work of the European Food Safety Authority
(EFSA), the European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA), the European Centre for
Disease prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA).
SCENIHR
Questions concerning emerging or newly-identified risks and on broad, complex or multidisciplinary issues requiring a comprehensive assessment of risks to consumer safety or
public health and related issues not covered by other Community risk- assessment
bodies.
In particular, the Committee addresses questions related to potential risks associated
with interaction of risk factors, synergic effects, cumulative effects, antimicrobial
resistance, new technologies such as nanotechnologies, medical devices, tissue
engineering, blood products, fertility reduction, cancer of endocrine organs, physical
hazards such as noise and electromagnetic fields and methodologies for assessing new
risks.
Scientific Committee members
Anders Ahlbom, James Bridges, Wim De Jong, Philippe Hartemann, Thomas Jung,
Mats-Olof Mattsson, Jean-Marie Pagès, Konrad Rydzynski, Dorothea Stahl, Mogens
Thomsen.
Contact:
European Commission
Health & Consumer Protection DG
Directorate C: Public Health and Risk Assessment
Unit C7 - Risk Assessment
Office: B232
B-1049 Brussels
[email protected]
© European Commission 2008
The opinions of the Scientific Committees present the views of the independent scientists
who are members of the committees. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the
European Commission. The opinions are published by the European Commission in their
original language only.
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/risk_en.htm
2
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Members of the working group are acknowledged for their valuable contribution to this
opinion. The members of the working group are:
SCENIHR members:
Prof. Konrad Rydzynski (Chair)
Dr. Thomas Jung
External experts:
Dr. Yves Cazals, Université Paul Cézanne, Faculté des Sciences et Techniques, Marseille,
France.
Prof. Adrian Davis1, OBE FFPH FSS FRSA, Director NHS Newborn Hearing Screening
Programme, Director MRC Hearing and Communication Group, University of Manchester,
Manchester, UK.
Prof. Staffan Hygge2, Laboratory of Applied Psychology, Centre for Built Environment,
University of Gävle, Gävle, Sweden.
Prof. Deepak Prasher3, Ear Institute, University College London, London, UK.
Dr. Paolo Ravazzani4, Istituto di Ingegneria Biomedica CNR, Milano, Italy.
Prof. Mariola Śliwińska-Kowalska5, MD, PhD (Rapporteur). Centre of Audiology and
Phoniatrics, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine, Lódz, Poland.
Dr. Hans Verschuure6, Secretary-General International Society of Audiology, ENT-Hearing
and Speech Center, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
1
2
3
4
5
6
Declared interest (see the minutes of the SCENIHR Plenary:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_020.pdf ;
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_021.pdf)
Declared interest (see the minutes of the SCENIHR Plenary:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_021.pdf)
Declared interest (see the minutes of the SCENIHR Plenary:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_020.pdf)
Declared interest (see the minutes of the SCENIHR Plenary:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_020.pdf)
Declared interest (see the minutes of the SCENIHR Plenary:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_020.pdf ;
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_023.pdf)
Declared interest (see the minutes of the SCENIHR Plenary:
http://ec.europa.eu/health/ph_risk/committees/04_scenihr/docs/scenihr_mi_020.pdf)
3
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
ABSTRACT
Exposure to excessive noise is a major cause of hearing disorders worldwide. It is
attributed to occupational noise. Besides noise at workplaces, which may contribute to
16% of the disabling hearing loss in adults, loud sounds at leisure times may reach
excessive levels for instance in discos and personal music players (PMPs). It is estimated
that over two decades the numbers of young people with social noise exposure has
tripled (to around 19%) since the early 1980s, whilst occupational noise had decreased.
The increase in unit sales of portable audio devices including MP3 has been phenomenal
in the EU over the last four years. Estimated units sales ranged between 184-246 million
for all portable audio devices and between 124-165 million for MP3 players.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a function of sound level and duration of exposure. In order
to counteract noise-induced hearing loss more effectively, a European directive “Noise at
Work Regulations” taking effect starting February 2006, established the minimal security
level at the equivalent noise exposure limit to 80 dB(A) for an 8 hour working day (or 40
hour working week), assuming that below this level the risk to hearing is negligible. The
8-hour equivalent level (Lequ, 8h) is a widely used measure for the risk of hearing damage
in industry, and can equally be applied to leisure noise exposures. The free-field
equivalent sound pressure levels measured at maximum volume control setting of PMPs
range around 80-115 dB(A) across different devices, and differences between different
types of ear-phones may modify this level by up to 7-9 dB. The mean time of exposure
ranges from below 1 hour to 14 hours a week.
Considering the daily (or weekly) time spent on listening to music through PMPs and
typical volume control settings it has been estimated that the average, A-weighted, eight
hour equivalent sound exposures levels (referred to “Noise at Work Regulations”) from
PMPs typically range from 75 to 85 dB(A). Such levels produce minimal risk of hearing
impairment for the majority of PMP users. However, approximately 5% to 10% of the
listeners are at high risk due to the levels patterns and duration of their listening
preferences. The best estimate from the limited data we have available suggests that this
maybe between 2.5 and 10 million people in EU. Those are the individuals listening to
music over 1 hour a day at high volume control setting.
Excessive noise can damage several cell types in the ear and lead to tinnitus, temporary
or permanent hearing loss (deafness). Published data indicate that excessive acute
exposures to PMPs music at maximal or near maximal output volume can produce
temporary and reversible hearing impairment (tinnitus and slight deafness). Major
discrepancies exist between the results of the studies on permanent noise-induced
hearing loss in PMP users, with both, positive and negative studies published. Tinnitus
and hearing fatigue may occur more frequently in teenagers chronically exposed to
music, including PMP users, than in non-users.
In addition to auditory effects harmful, lasting and irreversible non-auditory effects of
excessive listening to PMP can be expected; they include cardiovascular effects, cognition
as well as distraction and masking effects. However, there is not sufficient evidence to
state that music from PMPs constitutes a risk for such effects.
In the face of an increasing population at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus due to i)
increasing PMPs use and acceptance in the EU and ii) the possibility to use PMPs at high
sound levels, there is a lack of data concerning:
a) the current PMP use pattern, duration, output level, choice of loud levels and exposure
of users to other high level sound sources.
b) the contribution of loud sounds to hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as cognitive and
attention deficits in children and young people.
c) long-term studies using more sensitive hearing impairment measures to assess the
impact of PMPs on hearing and to identify the potential sub-groups more ‘at risk’ (e.g.
4
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
children, genetic sub-groups and environmental sub-groups such as those who commute
to work or school in noisy surroundings).
d) biological basis of individual
pharmacological treatment.
susceptibility
to
noise
and
the
benefits
from
e) whether excessive voluntary PMP-listening leads to lasting and irreversible cognitive
and attention deficits after the cessation of the noise.
Keywords : Health effects, Noise, Noise Induced Hearing Loss, Personal Music Players,
SCENIHR
Opinion to be cited as : SCENIHR (Scientific Committee on Emerging and NewlyIdentified Health Risks), Scientific opinion on the Potential health risks of exposure to
noise from personal music players and mobile phones including a music playing function,
23 September 2008.
5
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
TABLE OF CONTENTS
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........................................................................................... 3
ABSTRACT .......................................................................................................... 4
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY........................................................................................... 8
1.
BACKGROUND ........................................................................................... 11
2.
TERMS OF REFERENCE................................................................................ 12
3.
SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE .............................................................................. 13
3.1. Introduction ............................................................................................. 13
3.2. Methodology ............................................................................................ 14
3.3. Sound: Definitions and measurements ......................................................... 15
3.3.1. Definitions..................................................................................... 15
3.3.2. Sound: Physical and technical background ......................................... 16
3.3.3. Units of noise exposure ................................................................... 16
3.3.3.1.
Sound pressure level and dB SPL ........................................ 16
3.3.3.2.
Loudness level and filter A [dB(A)]...................................... 17
3.3.3.3.
Decibel measures in audiometry ......................................... 18
3.3.4. Methodology of noise measurement .................................................. 19
3.3.5. Noise assessment........................................................................... 20
3.3.6. Conclusions ................................................................................... 21
3.4. Hearing impairment .................................................................................. 22
3.4.1. Definitions and evaluation ............................................................... 22
3.4.2. Speech communication difficulties..................................................... 24
3.4.3. Tinnitus ........................................................................................ 24
3.4.4. Age-associated hearing loss ............................................................. 25
3.4.5. Conclusions ................................................................................... 26
3.5. Noise-induced hearing loss and associated impairments ................................. 26
3.5.1. Epidemiology of noise-induced hearing loss ........................................ 26
3.5.2. Environmental noise exposure levels ................................................. 27
3.5.3. Exposure – effect relationship .......................................................... 27
3.5.4. Mechanisms of noise-induced hearing loss ......................................... 30
3.5.4.1.
Overview of pathophysiological effects of noise..................... 30
3.5.4.2.
Biological processes involved in noise effects ........................ 32
3.5.5. Clinical evaluation of noise damage................................................... 34
3.5.5.1.
Hearing loss .................................................................... 34
3.5.5.2.
Vestibular effect ............................................................... 35
3.5.5.3.
Noise-induced tinnitus....................................................... 35
3.5.6. Vulnerability factors........................................................................ 35
3.5.6.1.
Environmental factors ....................................................... 36
3.5.6.2.
Ototoxic drugs ................................................................. 38
3.5.6.3.
Genetics ......................................................................... 38
3.5.6.4.
Other factors ................................................................... 39
3.5.7. Therapies ...................................................................................... 39
3.5.8. Conclusions ................................................................................... 40
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Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.6. Technical aspects of personal music players.................................................. 40
3.6.1. General characteristics .................................................................... 40
3.6.2. Sound output................................................................................. 41
3.6.3. Conclusions ................................................................................... 41
3.7. PMP usage in the population ....................................................................... 42
3.7.1. Listening levels .............................................................................. 42
3.7.2. Listening habits.............................................................................. 43
3.7.3. Listening environments ................................................................... 44
3.7.4. Market trends and availability of portable audio equipment................... 45
3.7.5. Conclusions ................................................................................... 48
3.8. Effects of sound from PMP on hearing .......................................................... 49
3.8.1. Changes in prevalence of hearing loss in young people ........................ 49
3.8.2. Hearing threshold shift .................................................................... 50
3.8.2.1.
Temporary threshold shift (TTS) ......................................... 50
3.8.2.2.
Permanent threshold shift (PTS) ......................................... 51
3.8.3. Speech comprehension impairment................................................... 52
3.8.4. Tinnitus ........................................................................................ 53
3.8.5. Risk associated with pop concerts and discotheques ............................ 53
3.8.6. Risk associated with classical orchestral music.................................... 54
3.8.7. Conclusions ................................................................................... 54
3.9. Non-auditory effects.................................................................................. 55
3.9.1. Psychological effects ....................................................................... 55
3.9.1.1.
Reading and memory ........................................................ 55
3.9.1.2.
Attention and distraction ................................................... 56
3.9.1.3.
School performance .......................................................... 56
3.9.1.4.
Motivation ....................................................................... 57
3.9.1.5.
Lasting after effects on cognition from listening to PMPs......... 57
3.9.2. Other Effects ................................................................................. 57
3.9.2.1.
Sleep.............................................................................. 57
3.9.2.2.
Cardiovascular and other physiological effects ...................... 58
3.9.3. Conclusions ................................................................................... 58
4.
OPINION................................................................................................... 59
5.
COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION .............................. 63
6.
MINORITY OPINION.................................................................................... 64
7.
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ............................................................................ 65
8.
REFERENCES ............................................................................................. 66
7
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Exposure to excessive noise is a major cause of hearing disorders worldwide; 16% of the
disabling hearing loss in adults is attributed to occupational noise, ranging from 7% to
21% in the various subregions. In order to better counteract noise induced hearing loss,
a European directive taking effect starting February 2006, established the minimal
security level at the equivalent noise exposure limit to 80 dB(A) (to take account of the
responsiveness of the human ear to sound).
Outside the workplace, a high risk of hearing impairment arises from attending or
participating in discos and rock concerts, using personal music players, exercising or
attending noisy sports (hunting, sports shooting, speedway) or from exposures to
military noise. The leisure noise sources including music devices usually generate sounds
within a broad frequency and sound pressure level ranges. The equivalent sound levels in
discos ranged between 104.3 and 112.4 dB(A), and between 80 and 115 dB(A) from
personal music players. Sounds other than noise (such as music) can, at high acoustic
levels, be as dangerous for hearing as industrial noise.
It is estimated that the numbers of young people with social noise exposure had tripled
(to around 19%) since the early 1980s, whilst occupational noise had decreased.
Therefore the Commission requested the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly
Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) to assess:
1.
Whether the exposure to noise from devices like personal music players and mobile
phones with this function, at levels corresponding to current permissible noise
emissions may cause quantifiable health risks, in particular hearing loss and/or
hearing impairment to the user, and to specify the relevant outcomes;
2.
In case health risks are identified, the SCENIHR is asked:
a.
to identify the level of noise emission safeguarding the health of citizens,
taking into account the intensity, length and number of exposures to users of
personal music players and mobile phones with the same function and
b.
to identify priority issues for further research.
Over the last few years, there is a trend for an increasing population risk due to PMPs, as
their qualities improved and they have become used by an increasing proportion of the
population. Indeed the increase in unit sales of portable audio devices including MP3 has
been phenomenal in EU over the last four years (2004–2007). Estimated units sales
could be in the range of 184–246 million for all portable audio devices and in the range of
124–165 million for MP3 players. Last year, the sales of mobile phones reached a similar
number of units i.e ca. 200 million. However, so far the availability of the MP3
functionality is not widespread in these handsets (ca. ten percent). Its use is even more
unknown. So, at present the major risk to hearing, if use is inappropriate, is through
portable audio devices, and particularly MP3 players.
It should be mentioned that although the data for the portable audio market are
accessible, there are no demographics easily available on these sales, nor any
information on how many devices an individual may buy over a given time period, how
long they last before being discarded and how long and in what situations they are used.
Thus, it is hard to estimate the proportion of the population that has access to portable
audio or to MP3 players, and how many use them on a daily basis. However, it may be
estimated on rather conservative way that in EU a number of daily users of devices like
personal music players and mobile phones with this function, are in the tens of millions.
As shown by many studies, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a function of sound level
and duration of exposure. The amount of energy absorbed in the ear is physically the
8
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
product of sound level by exposure time. Using this simple rule, also known as the equal
energy principle, it follows that a given increase of sound level associated with a
proportional decrease in duration will amount to the same risks. All data indicate a large
inter-individual variability in vulnerability to excessive sound exposures, some subjects
being affected while others are not; up to now the factors underlying this variability are
very poorly known.
Excessive noise can damage several cell types in the inner ear, but most affected are the
outer hair cells. The sequence of these pathological events and their cause/effect
relationships have been profoundly explored in animals showing good correlation
between morphological signs of pathology and the functional (audiometric) measures. In
humans NIHL accrues progressively and often unnoticed until it reaches a certain degree.
Very high levels of noise exposure can lead to acute mechanical damage to inner and
outer hair cells, but this form of damage is very rare. More commonly, there is a chronic
damage that builds up slowly over time. Several factors can have detrimental effects to
hearing, apart from noise exposure. These are exposures to several chemicals, ototoxic
drugs and lowered levels of breathed oxygen which were found to increase NIHL. The
study of the possible involvement of genetic factors has only recently started. Emerging
evidence points to the implication of some genes and the exclusion of other candidate
genes.
With the digital formats of sound currently available (e.g. MP3) for recording and
reproduction, it is possible to reach high levels of sound output without distortion. The
personal music players (PMPs) now play not only music, but provide podcasts of various
broadcasts or lecture material, which is delivered largely through ear-bud type insert ear
phones producing a range of maximum levels around 80-115 dB(A) across different
devices. The difference in ear-phone type may increase the level by 7-9 dB with ear-bud
type producing the highest levels in the ear canal. The actual sound level at the eardrum
is then influenced by the insertion depth of the ear-bud in the ear canal. It is possible to
obtain sound level of about 120 dB(A) in the worst case scenario.
In addition to the intensity level, another factor involved in the potential risk assessment
is the time or duration of exposure at a particular level. Exposure to sound at the level
exceeding 80 dB(A) is considered a potential risk if the exposure at that level continues
for 8 hours a day, five days a week for tens of years. On the basis of equal energy, level
and time of exposure may be traded with halving of time of exposure with every doubling
in level (+3dB). The Noise at Work Regulations in the EU countries set the exposure level
at 80dB for 8 hours per day for 5 days a week before action is taken. Using the equal
energy basis it may be deduced that 80 dB(A) for 40 hours would be equivalent to 83
dB(A) for 20 hours and 89 dB(A) for 5 hours per week. Assuming that an average PMP
user listens for 7 hours per week (1 hour/day), this would exceed the Noise at Work
regulations if the sound level for the PMP exceeded 89 dB(A). The A-weighted, eight hour
equivalent sound exposures levels from PMPs has been estimated in the literature to
have a mean between 75 and 85 dB(A). However, there is a wide variation around those
means. The type of music and environment only slightly influence exposure levels.
Assuming that music as a cause of noise-induced hearing loss could be compared with
industrial noise, such exposures produce minimal risk of hearing impairment for the
majority of PMP users. However, a small proportion of users are at a higher risk due to
the levels patterns and duration of their listening preferences. Considering the daily (or
weekly) time spent on listening to music through personal music players and the typical
volume control settings, approximately 5% to 10% of the listeners are at high risk of
developing permanent hearing loss after 5 or more years of exposure. Those are the
individuals listening to music over 1 hour a day at high volume control setting.
Literature data indicate that excessive acute exposures to PMPs music at maximal or
near maximal output volume can produce reversible hearing impairment (temporary
threshold shift) up to 30 dB at 4 kHz in some individuals after short time (one or more
hours) of exposure. However, the risk of hearing loss and tinnitus is much smaller
compared to pop concerts and discotheques music exposures.
9
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
There are major discrepancies between the results of the studies on permanent NIHL in
PMP users. They could arise from different study designs and methodology. Most of these
studies showed none or only small permanent effect of using PMP on hearing in the
majority of users, if consequences were assessed with audiometric hearing thresholds,
over a period of a few years, whilst participants in the research were still young. On the
other hand there is a population study which indicates such a risk. In the third national
health and nutrition examination survey of 1988-1994 in the USA it was found that,
among children aged 6-19 years, 12.5% had noise-induced threshold shift (NITS) in one
or both ears, with higher prevalence in boys (14.2%) compared to girls (10.1%), and in
older children aged 12-19 (15.5%) compared to 6-11 year olds (8.5%). Moreover,
among children meeting NITS criteria 14.6% had a noise notch for both ears. This
warning study needs confirmation and no equivalent data exist on the European
population.
In the face of an increasing population at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus due to i)
increasing PMPs use and acceptance in the EU and ii) the possibility to use PMPs at high
sound levels, there is a lack of data concerning:
a) the current PMP use pattern, duration, output level, choice of loud levels and exposure
of users to other high level sound sources.
b) the contribution of loud sounds to hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as cognitive and
attention deficits in children and young people.
c) long-term studies using more sensitive hearing impairment measures to assess the
impact of PMPs on hearing and to identify the potential sub-groups more ‘at risk’ (e.g.
children, genetic sub-groups and environmental sub-groups such as those who commute
to work or school in noisy surroundings).
d) biological basis of individual
pharmacological treatment.
susceptibility
to
noise
and
the
benefits
from
e) whether excessive voluntary PMP-listening leads to lasting and irreversible cognitive
and attention deficits after the cessation of the noise.
10
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
1. BACKGROUND
The health effects of exposure to noise have been known for a long time, in particular
noise-induced hearing damage such as irreversible hearing loss and impairment. Hearing
loss appears to accompany ageing, but noise induced hearing damage can be prevented
to a large extent by reducing exposure time and levels. Measures to this effect have been
introduced at the workplace.
Recently the attention of the Commission services has been drawn to the need to
reassure itself that sufficient preventive measures are in place to prevent hearing
damage among children and adolescents from the noise of personal music players and
7
radio communication devices including such a facility .
The regulatory framework governing the safety of this equipment is as follows:
8
• The Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment (R&TTE) Directive
1999/5/EC governs the health and safety aspects of radio equipment, including
mobile phones;
• The Low Voltage Directive (LVD) 2006/95/EC9 governing the health and safety of
electrical equipment within certain voltage ranges lists the standards referred to
below for other types of equipment;
10
• The General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) 2001/95/EC seeks to ensure that
all consumer products are safe where this aspect is not further detailed in any
other “specific” EU legislation (including personal music players).
The R&TTE and LV Directives make reference to European Harmonised Standard EN
60065:2002 “Audio, video and similar electronic apparatus - Safety requirements”. This
standard provides the technical detail to ensure the safety of users of personal music
players with headphones or earphones. It requires compliance with maximum pressure
level and maximum voltage outputs measured following the methods described in
standards EN 50332-1:2000 and EN 50332-2:2003. None of the standards currently
require any specific labelling in respect of noise emissions.
In 2005 the French authorities updated a national Order of 1998 aimed at preventing
11
users of personal audio equipment from suffering long term hearing impairment . In
addition to the maximum pressure and voltage requirements prescribed in the two
harmonised standards mentioned above the French national Order requires information
and/or labelling for the end user. The revised Order entered into force on 1 May 2006
and its scope includes both personal audio equipment and mobile telephones.
The Commission considers it necessary to request the Scientific Committee on Emerging
and Newly Identified Health Risks (SCENIHR) to assess whether the health of citizens is
appropriately protected by the current requirements of the above-mentioned Community
directives and European standards.
7
Digital technologies have stimulated the distribution and use of a new generation of personal music
players. The digital music players available on the market have maximum output noise levels of 90 to 120
dB(A). Furthermore, using software available on the internet enables to exceed these levels and reach
values of 130 dB(A).
8
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31999L0005:EN:NOT
9
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:374:0010:0019:EN:PDF
10
http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32001L0095:EN:NOT
11
French Order of 8th November 2005 implementing Article L. 5232-1 of the Public Health Code
11
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
2. TERMS OF REFERENCE
The SCENIHR is asked to assess, in the light of current scientific data and knowledge:
1.
Whether the exposure to noise from devices like personal music players and mobile
phones with this function, at levels corresponding to current permissible noise
emissions may cause quantifiable health risks, in particular hearing loss and/or
hearing impairment to the user, and to specify the relevant outcomes;
2.
In case health risks are identified, the SCENIHR is asked:
a.
to identify the level of noise emission safeguarding the health of citizens,
taking into account the intensity, length and number of exposures to users of
personal music players and mobile phones with the same function and
b.
to identify priority issues for further research.
12
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3. SCIENTIFIC RATIONALE
3.1. Introduction
In a recent report WHO states (WHO 2002, Nelson 2005) “Worldwide, 16% of the
disabling hearing loss in adults is attributed to occupational noise, ranging from 7% to
21% in the various subregions”. For almost two decades, the level of 85 dB(A) was
regarded as the critical intensity for the workplace; at exposures below 85 dB(A) the
probability of hearing losses occurring with long-term exposure was then considered
sufficiently limited (Welleschik 1979). Therefore, international standards recommended
the equivalent sound pressure level (Lequ, 8h) of 85 dB(A) (A filter-weighted, 8-hour
working day-weighted average) as the exposure limit for occupational noise (ISO
1999:1990; NIOSH revised criteria 1974). However, more recent studies showed that
this standard did not guarantee the safety for the human auditory system. Therefore, the
new EC Directive Noise at Work Regulations on the minimum health and safety
requirements regarding exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents
(noise) introduces lower exposure action value at Lequ, 8h = 80 dB(A) (Directive
2003/10/EC).
Although early reviews (eg MRC 1986) concluded that leisure noise was unlikely to be a
significant threat to hearing compared to occupational noise, they noted a need for more
good data and research. Since then there have been huge changes in patterns of noise
exposure. Smith et al. (2000) found that the numbers of young people with social noise
exposure had tripled (to around 19%) since the early 1980s, whilst occupational noise
had decreased.
There is a number of studies which documented that noise from environmental sources
like traffic, aircraft, construction or neighbourhood, although sometimes very annoying,
do not reach the equivalent levels that can be harmful to hearing. On the other hand,
they can cause non-auditory effects. In the last years a pattern of environmental noise
exposures has changed substantially; the leisure noise sources became of a main public
concern as it was found that they can generate sounds across a broad frequency range
and from high to low sound pressure levels. The equivalent sound levels in discos may
range between 104.3 and 112.4 dB(A), and between 75 and 105 dB(A) from personal
music players (Serra et al. 2005). The noise dose measures over 4 hours showed an Laeq
of 104.3 dB. The nightclubs' average sound level ranged between 93.2 to 109.7 dB(A).
Therefore it may be concluded that sounds such as music can, at high acoustic levels, be
as dangerous for hearing as industrial noise.
In the last decade, PMPs with improved qualities and suitable for playback at high sound
levels became available and have been used by an increasing proportion of the
population. Data shows that for the MP3 players and equivalent devices the unit sales in
Europe, between 2004–2007, were estimated as about 124 million but could be as large
as 165 million and for all portable audio could be in the range 184–246 million. On top of
this there were about 161 million handset mobile phones sold in EU countries in 2007
only. It is estimated that today about 10-20% of these phones include a MP3 playback
function. This results in an estimated additional number of 16 to 32 million PMP devices.
It is expected that the fraction of mobile phones containing the PMP function will rapidly
increase such that up to 75% of all phones sold by 2011 may provide this function.
Notably, data are not very precise at present and it is not clear whether people who have
access to PMP function actually use them on a regular basis.
The personal music players (PMPs) which now play not only music, but provide podcasts
of various broadcasts or lecture material, which is delivered largely through ear-bud type
insert ear phones producing a range of maximum levels around 88-113 dB(A) across
different devices. In the worst case scenario, it is possible to obtain level of about 120
dB(A).
13
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Taking into consideration the above mentioned data, the Commission requested the
Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks to assess whether
the health of citizens is appropriately protected by current requirements of Community
directives and European standards by formulating terms of reference.
3.2. Methodology
The Working Group has considered evidence derived from a wide variety of sources,
including peer-reviewed scientific literature and published reports of institutional,
professional, governmental and non-governmental organisations. In common with the
usual practice of SCENIHR Working Groups, no reliance has been made on unpublished
work or publicly available opinions that are not science based.
During the course of the deliberations of the Working Group, a Call for Information was
issued by the Commission and the replies have all been considered.
As a general rule, scientific reports that are published in English language peer-reviewed
scientific journals are considered primarily. This does not imply that all published articles
are considered to be equally valid and relevant for health risk assessment. On the
contrary, a main task is to evaluate and assess the articles and the scientific weight that
is to be given to each of them. Only studies that are considered relevant for the task are
commented upon in the opinion. Many more reports were considered than are cited in
the reference list. However, only articles that contribute significantly to the update of the
opinion are explicitly discussed, commented and cited. In some areas where the
literature is particularly scarce, namely on market trends in sales of PMPs and mobile
phones with MP3 function, data obtained from professional databases were obtained and
analyzed for relevance and importance by experts.
Relevant research on the assessment of health risks related to listening to PMPs’ can be
divided into broad sectors such as epidemiologic studies and experimental studies in
humans. Other studies, used frequently in other risk assessment procedures, such as
experimental studies in animals and cell culture studies were considered occasionally,
only when necessary to understand the mechanisms of potential noise induced hearing
loss.
A health risk assessment evaluates the evidence within each of these sectors and then
weighs together the evidence across the sectors to a combined assessment. This
combined assessment should address the question of whether or not a hazard exists i.e.,
if there exists a causal relationship between exposure and some adverse health effect.
The answer to this question is not necessarily a definitive yes or no, but may express the
weight of the evidence for the existence of a hazard. If such a hazard is judged to be
present, the risk assessment also estimates the magnitude of the effect and the shape of
the dose-response function, used for characterizing the magnitude of the risk for various
exposure levels and exposure patterns.
A full risk assessment also includes exposure assessment in the population and estimates
of the impact of exposure on burden of disease. Epidemiological and experimental studies
are subject to similar treatment in the evaluation process. It is of equal importance to
evaluate positive and negative studies, i.e., studies indicating that the exposure to noise
from devices like PMPs’ and mobile phones with this function have an effect and studies
not indicating the existence of such an effect. In the case of positive studies the
evaluation focuses on alternatives to causation as explanation of the positive result: with
what is the degree of certainty for ruling out the possibility that the observed positive
result is produced by bias, e.g. confounding or selection bias, or chance. In the case of
negative studies one assesses the certainty with which it can be ruled out that the lack of
an observed effect is the result of (masking) bias, e.g. because of too small exposure
contrasts or too crude exposure measurements; one also has to evaluate the possibility
14
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
that the lack of an observed effect is the result of chance, a possibility that is a particular
problem in small studies with low statistical power.
Obviously, statistical significance is only one factor in this evaluation. Other
characteristics of the study are also taken into account, such as the size of the database,
the assessment of the participation rate, the level of exposure, and the quality of
exposure assessment. The observed strength of association and the internal consistency
of the results, including aspects such as dose-response relation are particularly
important. Regarding experimental studies, additional important characteristics are the
types of controls that have been used and the extent to which replication studies have
been performed. It is worth noting that this process does not assess whether a specific
study is unequivocally negative or positive or whether it is accepted or rejected. Rather,
the assessment will result in a weight that is given to the findings of a study. In the final
overall evaluation phase, the available evidence is integrated over various sectors of
research.
3.3. Sound: Definitions and measurements
3.3.1.
Definitions
In view of the clarity required for this document and as an aid to communications
between disciplines and across national borders it is important to agree on definitions for
scientific and technical purposes. It is also noted that the use of some words like e.g.
‘noise’ is not consistent between disciplines and therefore needs a definition.
Note that in the language of the electronic devices, noise is used for that part of the
signal of statistical nature which is not carrying the intended information, as it is
reflected for example in signal to noise ratios. Next to statistical noise there is nonstatistical ‘hum’ on many signals to be tabulated. The signal on one line may actually
contribute to the hum or noise on the other line specifying the ‘cross talk’.
In the world of sound, however, noise has also a slightly different meaning in that it is
any sound which is not desired by a certain observer. Therefore, in the context of the
current mandate, the use of the word noise has to be carefully explained: While, on the
basis of the above definitions, the use of the word ‘noise’ is reserved for those cases
where the potentially affected person is not intentionally listening, this is not conclusive
for the users of personal music players and the like. Because the sound pressure levels of
earphone devices to an outside observer remain far below the limits of physiological
effects, it is the sound of personal music players which is of concern to this mandate.
This outside observer may nevertheless be distracted and annoyed and may rightfully, in
the lexicographic meaning of the word call noise what is sound in his neighbours ears.
For the historic importance of noise protection in work environments like factories or the
transportation industry the word ‘noise protection’ and ‘noise-induced hearing loss and
impairment’ have been coined while a number of such terms e.g. in the context of
professional musicians and their job do not really qualify the use of the word ‘noise’.
Therefore, and for the scope of comparability between the scientific literature in both
cases, that of noise exposure and of sound exposure (which leads to very similar
physiological effects at comparable levels) it has been decided for the purpose of this
mandate to keep up with the established wording and to use the word ‘noise’ irrespective
of whether the ‘noise’ exposure is wanted (e.g. when playing a personal music player) or
not (e.g. in the typical workplace setting). Thus, ‘noise’ is used consistently in the
context of all disease and malfunction patterns, while the word ‘sound’ is used
consequently throughout this opinion to clarify that the concern is the voluntary listener
of personal music players and not the observer of the listening situation.
15
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.3.2.
Sound: Physical and technical background
Sound or Sound waves comprise a wave phenomenon. Sound waves are ‘longitudinal’
waves because sound waves consist of areas of higher and lower local pressure. The
propagation of sound waves occurs in all media, i.e. in gases, liquids and solids as well as
in more complex fluids like e.g. organisms and tissues.
Fundamentally, sound waves are characterized by their spectrum. A spectrum is the
summation of individual frequencies (f) and amplitudes a certain signal has in the
surrounding medium. In daily acoustic settings sound is a complex summation of many
different sounds from different sources. Sound will not propagate through vacuum and its
propagation is influenced by material properties like density and compression / shear
strengths. Characteristic parameters of sound waves in a given situation derive from the
fundamental wave equation which may be to challenging to evaluate for a given complex
scenario.
The exposure to sound in a typical setting is determined by many factors which are not
always easy to assess. For sound propagation, the geometry of the room, the surface
materials and furnishings as well as its occupation, the materials and media surrounding
the source and the listener play a determining role. Like for any other wave, the sound
wave at a specific location depends on interference from different sources which depends
on the relative phase reaching the location from different sources or after travelling
different pathways. Thus, the distribution of energy and the energy absorption in sound
exposure scenarios is not necessarily straightforward which leads to the many flavours of
acoustics as subfields of physics and engineering, medicine and architecture. Well-known
examples are the different acoustical characteristics of a furnished and unfurnished room,
the sound-design of commercial products like cars and the engineering of anti-soundreflection surfaces to be used in the prevention of sound propagation next to highways,
railway lines, but also within sound-studios and in other architectural settings. Notably
also details of the anatomy of the ear, the hair dress and clothing specific to one listener
may affect the sound distribution before the sound reaches the sound sensitive cells in
the inner ear of a specific observer.
To assess the exposure from different sources in a specific point, it is common use to
analyse the different contributions by their frequency and to provide certain
measurements related to sound (like power, amplitude etc) by their densities in the
frequency spectrum. Depending on whether sound waves are harmonic (‘tones’, ‘hum’)
or relate to uncorrelated events. Sound with an equal energy distribution across
frequencies is called ‘white noise’, while most sources of sound exhibit dominating
frequency bands originating from resonance phenomena. Typically, the above described
complex interaction of sound waves with the particular environment and media
(absorption, refraction, reflection and interference) leads to a changing spectrum of
sound waves with progressing propagation or the modified position of an observer.
3.3.3.
Units of noise exposure
3.3.3.1. Sound pressure level and dB SPL
One parameter of the acoustic (sound) wave which is generally used to assess sound
exposure to humans is the sound pressure level expressed in µPa or Pa. Human ear’
audible sound pressure levels range from 20 µPa (hearing threshold) till 20 Pa (pain
threshold), resulting in the scale 1:10,000,000. Since using such a large scale is not
practical, a logarithmic scale in decibels (dB) was introduced which is also in agreement
with physiological and psychological hearing sensations.
dB of sound pressure level (dB SPL) is defined as: 20 log10 p1/p0 where p1 is actually
measured sound pressure level of a given sound, and p0 is a reference value of 20µPa,
which corresponds to the lowest hearing threshold of the young, healthy ear. In the
logarithmic scale the range of human ear’s audible sounds is from 0 dB SPL (hearing
threshold) to 120-140 dB SPL (pain threshold) (see table 1 below).
16
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Source / observing situation
Typical sound pressure level (db SPL)
Hearing threshold
0 dB
Leaves fluttering
20 dB
Whisper in an ear
30 dB
Normal speech conversation for a participant
60 dB
Cars/vehicles for a close observer
60-100 dB
Airplane taking-off for a close observer
120 dB
Pain threshold
120-140 dB
Table 1:
The examples of sound pressure levels in relation to hearing threshold and
pain threshold (in dB SPL)
3.3.3.2. Loudness level and filter A [dB(A)]
The human ear is not equally sensitive to sounds (tones) of the same sound pressure
levels but different frequencies. This subjective or perceived magnitude of a sound by an
individual is called its loudness. The loudness of a sound is not equal with its sound
pressure level and differs for different frequencies. In order to assess loudness of a
sound the isophonic curves are explored. Isophonic curves relate the characteristic of a
given tone expressed in dB SPL to its subjective loudness level expressed in phones (see
figure 1 below). As it could be seen in the figure below, the frequencies 3-4 kHz are the
most sensitive within sound frequency range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz that can be heard by
human ear. For frequencies lower than 3-4 kHz and higher sound frequencies, the ear
becomes less sensitive.
Figure 112:
Normal equal –loudness-level contours for pure tones under free-field
listening conditions according to ISO 226:2003 (permission for publication kindly granted
by ISO)
12
It should be noted that free-field (binaural) thresholds given in the figure are different from headphone
thresholds; the differences depend on the headphone type and frequency tested (BS EN 606451:2001*IEC 60645-1:2001; BS EN ISO 389-2:1997).
17
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
While sound pressure measurements should give a reading of the sound pressure in
dB SPL, in the context of human hearing it is more practical to provide also a value which
corresponds more closely to the hearing sensation or loudness in phones. The A, B, and
C filters used currently in sound-level meters were aimed at mimicking isoloudness
curves over frequency under different conditions of sound intensities, i.e. for sounds of
low, medium, and high loudness levels, respectively (IEC 651 1979). The “A” network
modifies the frequency response to follow approximately the equal loudness curve of 40
phons, while the “C” network approximately follows the equal loudness curve of 100
phons. A “B” network is also mentioned in some texts but it is no longer used in noise
evaluations. The popularity of the A network has grown in the course of time. In current
practice, the A- weighting curve filter is used to weight sound pressure levels as a
function of frequency, approximately in accordance with the frequency response
characteristics of the human auditory system for pure tones. This means that energy at
low and high frequencies is de-emphasized in relation to energy in the mid-frequency
range.
Correlation between noise effect hearing loss and sound exposure levels measured in A,
B, or C weightings would not be very different. B (or even C) weightings provide a better
correspondence between loudness and moderate (or high) acoustic levels, however A
weighting differs only from B and C as underweighting frequencies below about 500 Hz.
Since the human ear is much more resistant to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) at and
by low frequencies A weighting is more in correspondence with NIHL risk.
It should be noted that the A-filter has been adopted so generally that sound pressure
levels frequently quoted in audiology literature simply in dB are in fact A-weighted levels.
Many older general purpose sound level meters are restricted solely to A-weighted sound
pressure level measurements.
3.3.3.3. Decibel measures in audiometry
Different decibel measures are used in audiometry (evaluation of hearing sensitivity)
than in sound pressure measurement. They depend on the reference value.
Pure-tone audiometric thresholds are expressed in dB HL (hearing level) and are referred
to hearing thresholds of normal hearing young individuals. The differences between
dB HL and dB SPL arise from isophonic curves. Their corresponding values are given in
the table below.
Frequency [Hz]
dB SPL
dB HL
250
12
0
500
5
0
1000
2
0
2000
-2
0
4000
-5
0
8000
13
0
Table 2:
Audiometric hearing thresholds of normal ears: conversion of dB SPL into
dB HL (extracted from ISO, 2003)
Similarly to dB HL, the dB nHL (normal hearing level) values are referred to hearing
thresholds of normal hearing individuals but they regard non-tonal sound stimuli (e.g.
clicks).
18
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.3.4.
Methodology of noise measurement
Sounds are usually identified by their frequency spectrum, which is also relevant to
human perception because the ear analyses sounds in the cochlea by a spectral analysis.
The elemental component of a frequency spectrum is a sine wave or sinusoid with a
specific frequency. All sound waves can be described as a linear superposition of
sinusoids. Each sinusoid can be characterized by its frequency, its amplitude and the
phase in relation to the zero-time mark. Sinusoids with the same frequency and
amplitude superimpose either constructively by adding up to a sinusoid with double
amplitude if the phase difference is zero and destructively by cancelling out if the phase
difference is 180 degrees (or antiphase) resulting in no sound of that characteristic
frequency at a given point.
Sound originating from speech and music can similarly be described by their spectrum.
In general terms signals can be divided in signals with a tonal character and with a noisy
character.
•
Signals with a tonal character exhibit a spectrum made up of a basic frequency
component (f0) with harmonics (components that have a frequency which is an
integer multiple of the basis frequency (n*f0) and a related phase.
•
Signals with a noisy character exhibit a spectrum which is more complex than a
linear superposition of basic frequencies and their harmonics.
Sound measurements are done by determining the amplitude of the spectral components
or by detecting the sound pressure through a physical device, e.g. a microphone. The
total sound level of a signal is a root-sums-of-squares of the amplitude of all the spectral
components.
Signal levels, including noisy signals and music, are measured by placing a calibrated
sound meter (SPL meter) at the centre head location of a potential listener. This method
is generally used to determine the risk for hearing loss in working conditions.
The method distinguishes between various possible measures:
•
The averaged level, which is the average level of all frequency components over a
certain time period
o
The level measurement can be recorded by filtering according to the A, B
or C filter; dB (A)
•
The peak level indicating the highest level recorded either of the total (weighted)
signal or of specific components
•
The 8-hour equivalent level (Lequ,
damage based on certain criteria
8h)
which is a measure for the risk on hearing
The method can also be used to determine the level of music in the open field. Due to
the dependence of sound waves on the exact listening situation, as detailed in 3.2, it is
clear that this type of measurement is not suitable to head phone use where only a small
space between the head phones and the inner ear is exposed to sound waves.
Sound levels of signals presented through headphones are usually measured by artificial
ears. Most common are two types, the occluded ear simulator (OES) and the 2 cc
coupler. In audiometry and hearing aid specifications all measurements are measured
using one of these two couplers. The design of the couplers is based on the resonance
properties of the ear canal and the impedance of the tympanic membrane.
In the link of sound transfer from the open field to the ear, there is another transfer
characteristic to be included and that is the baffle effect of head and torso. The head
effects are usually determined by using a manikin, or as they are also called HATS, head
and torso simulator. It consists of a torso and head in which artificial ears are included.
The sound pressure is measure at the eardrum. If compared with the free field, this gives
the head-related transfer function (HRTF).
19
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
It is obvious that HATS and the couplers are based on measurements, averaged over
many torsos and ears of both genders taking a multitude of anatomic features into
account. Sound levels in individual ears will always differ somewhat from these values.
These have to do with the following features:
•
Shape of the torso and clothing
•
Hair style and head shape
•
Shape and volume of the outer ear and ear canal
•
Impedance of the tympanic membrane
•
Distortion of the sound field caused by other listeners or objects in the room
For the purpose of estimating the risk of the use of individual music players we assume
that the calculated sound levels based on the use of artificial heads and ears are good
estimates of the real levels.
The risk for hearing damage depends on sound or noise level and exposure time. Criteria
were originally developed using working conditions as a reference which are typically
measured in the open field. If we want to assess the risk of PMPs we have to compare
the levels produced by earplugs or headphones with the measurements done in free field.
This implies we have to determine the HRTFs for the different PMPs.
The output level of a PMP is determined by using an artificial ear. It measures the actual
sound pressure at the eardrum. To calculate the risk for hearing damage, the free field
level has to be calculated by using the inverse HRTF.
3.3.5.
Noise assessment
For long term (e.g. workplace) exposure, the level of 85 dB(A) was regarded as the
critical intensity; at exposures below 85 dB(A) the hearing losses were significantly lower
than for exposures exceeding this value (Welleschik 1979). International standards (ISO
1999:1990; NIOSH revised criteria, 1998) recommended the equivalent sound pressure
level (Lequ, 8h) of 85 dB(A) (A filter-weighted, 8-hour working day-weighted average) as
the exposure limit for occupational noise (ISO 1999:1990; NIOSH revised criteria, 1974).
However, this limit did not guarantee the safety for the auditory system of workers.
Therefore, the new EC Directive on the minimum health and safety requirements
regarding exposure of workers to the risks arising from physical agents (noise)
introduces lower exposure action value at Lequ, 8h = 80 dB(A) (Directive 2003/10/EC).
Noise at Work Regulations (Directive 2003/10/EC, came into force in 2006) recommend
three action levels for occupational settings depending on equivalent noise level for 8hour working day. If these values are converted using the time-intensity trade-off of 3 dB
increase for halving the time then the equivalent levels are shown, for example in a night
club with sounds of 104 dB(A) 2 minutes of exposure is equivalent to 80 dB(A) Lequ, 8h.
Thus, listening to a PMP player at 95 dB(A) for 15 minutes a day would equate to the first
action level, under the assumption of this exposure repeated over a long period.
20
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
LAequ, 8h
Action level
Equivalent levels for time indicated (trade-off 3 dB)
83 dB(A)-4hr13; 86 dB(A)-2hr;
First Action level (minimum)
80 dB(A) 89 dB(A)-1hr; 92 dB(A)-30min14; 95 dB(A)-15min;
provide protection
98 dB(A)-8min; 101 dB(A)-4min;
104 dB(A)-2min; 107 dB(A)-1min
Second Action level
85 dB(A)
88 dB(A)-4hr; 91 dB(A)-2hr;
94 dB(A)-1hr; 97 dB(A)-30min; 100 dB(A)-15min;
mandatory protection
105 dB(A)-5min; 111 dB(A)-1min
Maximum Exposure limit
value
90 dB(A)-4hr; 93 dB(A)-2hr;
87 dB(A) 96 dB(A)-1hr; 99 dB(A)-30min; 102 dB(A)-15min;
107 dB(A)-5min; 113 dB(A)-1min
Table 3:
The examples of equivalent time-intensity levels referred to the action
levels according to the Directive 2003/10/EC.
Although the above regulations and limits apply to the workplace, the fact that they rely
on the exposure level and duration means that they can equally be applied to other
situations where sound has a detrimental effect such as that from personal music
players; whether use in workplace, or under leisure situations.
3.3.6.
Conclusions
For the purposes of this mandate “noise” has been defined as any unwanted sound. The
word “sound” is used consequently throughout this opinion to clarify that the concern is
the voluntary listener of personal music players and not the observer of the listening
situation. Noise exposures and sound exposures at high sound pressure level may result
in similar damage to hearing.
The fundamental unit of noise exposure measurement is A-weighted decibel [dB(A)]. This
unit corresponds well with the physiological sensitivity of human and it has been
generally adopted in scientific literature.
Sound levels of signals presented through headphones are usually measured by artificial
ears. In the link of sound transfer from the open field to the ear, the head and torso
effects are usually determined by using a manikin.
The risk for hearing damage, as expressed in Noise at Work Regulations, depends on
level and exposure time (“equal energy principle”). This regulation (Directive
2003/10/EC) came into force in 2006 and establishes a minimal action level of hearing
protection to the limit of 80 dB(A) for an 8-hour working day, equivalent to 89 dB(A) for
1 hour, assuming that below this level the risk to hearing is negligible. The 8-hour
equivalent level (Lequ, 8h) is a widely used measure for the risk of hearing damage.
13
hr: Hours
14
min: minutes
21
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.4. Hearing impairment
3.4.1.
Definitions and evaluation
Hearing impairment may be defined to include as a reduction in hearing acuity or
sensitivity, or presence of tinnitus. It relates primarily to the inability of the affected
individual to hear sounds at certain levels. This is tested by presenting of pure tones at
frequencies of 250 Hz, 500 Hz, 1 kHz, 2 kHz, 4 kHz, 6 kHz and 8 kHz and is shown in
steps of 5 dBHL on a chart known as an audiogram. The threshold of hearing is defined
as 0dBHL on the basis of testing a number of young people. It is generally accepted that
hearing thresholds lying between 0 dBHL and 20 dBHL across the frequency range tested
may be deemed within “normal” limits15. Thus any threshold levels at any of the
audiometric frequencies listed above may constitute a hearing loss at that frequency of a
given amount raised above normal.
There are two types of hearing impairment, defined according to where the problem
occurs:
•
Conductive hearing impairment, which is a problem in the outer or middle ear.
This type of hearing problem is often medically or surgically treatable, if there is
access to the necessary services; childhood middle ear infection is the most
common example;
•
Sensorineural hearing impairment, which is usually due to a problem with the
inner ear, and occasionally with the auditory nerve going from there to the brain.
This type of hearing problem is usually permanent and requires rehabilitation,
such as with a hearing aid. Common causes are ageing, excessive noise and
ototoxic drugs etc.
World Health Organisation defines hearing impairment (www.who.int/pbd/deafness/en/)
as below:
Hearing impairment is a broad term used to describe the loss of hearing in one or
both ears. There are different levels of hearing impairment:
15
o
Hearing impairment refers to complete or partial loss of the ability to hear
from one or both ears. The level of impairment can often be usefully
graded as mild, moderate, severe or profound;
o
Deafness refers to the complete loss of ability to hear from one or both
ears.
However, WHO proposed to set a limit of hearing impairment to 25 dB(A) (see Table 4)
22
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Grade of
impairment16
Corresponding
audiometric
ISO value17
0 - No
impairment
25 dB or better
(better ear)
1 - Slight
impairment
26-40 dB
(better ear)
2 - Moderate
impairment
41-60 dB
(better ear)
3 - Severe
impairment
61-80 dB
(better ear)
Able to hear some words when
shouted into better ear.
4 - Profound
impairment
including
deafness
81 dB or greater
(better ear)
Unable to hear and understand
even a shouted voice.
Table 4:
Performance
No or very slight hearing
problems. Able to hear whispers.
Able to hear and repeat words
spoken in normal voice at 1
metre.
Able to hear and repeat words
spoken in raised voice at 1
metre.
Recommendations
Counselling. Hearing aids
may be needed.
Hearing aids usually
recommended.
Hearing aids needed. If
no hearing aids
available, lip-reading and
signing should be taught.
Hearing aids may help
understanding words.
Additional rehabilitation
needed. Lip-reading and
sometimes signing
essential.
World Health Organisation Grades of hearing impairment (WHO, 2008)
The WHO table (table 4) relates to the remediation after the acquisition of hearing loss
and not to the purposes of protection to prevent noise damage. For the purposes of
prevention it is important to consider any significant audiometric threshold shift as a sign
of impairment. In order to prevent hearing impairment from occurring it is important to
assess the sensitivity of hearing change as soon as possible. Consequently, changes in
hearing sensitivity between 0 and 20 dB maybe important, especially in children and
young people. Another area of concern is the lack of differentiation between hearing
acuity or sensitivity which may be deemed “normal” for children, and young people and
older adults as hearing is considered to be “normal” below 20 dB HL for all groups.
The above definitions of hearing impairment reflect one aspect of hearing that of an
inability to hear sounds of certain level of intensity. Another factor of importance in
hearing and understanding speech is the spectral and timing information. This is crucial
for clarity of speech hearing. Timing information is also necessary for another hearing
function which allows localisation of sounds in space. These aspects are not considered
by the above definition of hearing impairment which considers only intensity information.
Hearing impairment may therefore arise despite a “normal audiometric “threshold which
may be due to loss of timing information. In these instances a speech test may show a
relatively poor score relative to what may be expected from the audiometric evaluation.
This is normally seen in neural or central nervous system lesions.
Hearing impairment may also result from loss of frequency selectivity resulting in poor
tuning or selective listening for sounds of interest relative to background sounds which
may distract from the information of interest. This may be assessed using frequency
tuning curves or the relative strength of the efferent auditory system in modulating
incoming signals.
16
Grades 2, 3 and 4 are classified as disabling hearing impairment (for children, it starts at 31 dB).
17
The audiometric ISO values are averages of values at 500, 1000, 2000, 4000 Hz.
23
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Another aspect of hearing impairment may result from a long-lasting buzzing or ringing
known as tinnitus. This may result from over exposure to sounds of high intensity and be
short lived or may remain a constant irritation for the listener. Tinnitus may also occur as
a consequence of developing a hearing loss from any other cause.
3.4.2.
Speech communication difficulties
The ability to understand speech can be described by mathematical models like the
Speech Intelligibility Index SII (ANSI S3.5-1997, 1997) and Speech Transmission Index
STI (Steeneken and Houtgast, 1980), as a function of the hearing loss and speech level.
The STI approach shows that a normal-hearing person can understand speech (normal
sentences, no contextual information) if about 30% of the information is present (STI of
0.33). Information can be inaudible due to either a masking noise, or speech being below
the audibility threshold as determined in the pure-tone audiogram.
Verschuure and van Benthem (1992), using unmodulated speech noise (i.e, a noise with
the same long-term spectrum as the speech), showed that the speech-in-noise threshold
depends primarily on the high-frequency hearing loss. A 3 dB poorer threshold is
considered clinically relevant and means that the communication distance has to be
reduced by a factor 2. If we assume that a normal-hearing person can communicate at a
party at a distance of about 1 m a high-frequency hearing loss of about 40 dB makes it
impossible to do so; we have to come closer to a speaker and reduce the distance to 50
cm, close to the minimum distance socially acceptable. They also showed that hearing
aids can only partly (about 2/3) compensate for that loss. This effect can be well
described by the STI approach (Plomp et al. 1978; George et al. 2006). The poorer
auditory discrimination causes an additional loss of auditory processing. High-frequency
hearing loss, whether aided or unaided by hearing aids, will cause poorer speech
understanding in a noisy environment.
Everyday environments consist of many different situations, usually with modulated
noises in the background. Only when we are at a noisy party with many participants the
noise becomes almost unmodulated. The effect on the speech-in-noise threshold of a six
speaker babble is still somewhat better than the effect of an unmodulated noise. Tests as
described above have been done using modulated speech noise by Smoorenburg et al.
(Smoorenburg et al. 1982). They found that the higher the pure-tone hearing loss the
poorer was the ability of a person to listen in the gaps of the modulated noise. This
resulted in an extra effect of hearing loss on speech intelligibility in noise. For normalhearing persons the beneficial effect of modulating noise was about 7 dB, for people with
a hearing loss of about 60 dB, this advantage over unmodulated was almost nullified.
As to reverberation, Plomp and Duquesnoy (1980) showed that it has the same effect as
a background noise. In a population of healthy elderly people he studied the effect of
reverberation on the speech-in-noise threshold. He stated that for normal-hearing
persons the maximum reverberation time can be quite long. A person with a relative
small high-frequency hearing loss of about 40 dB will on average have a S/N ratio of
about 0 dB, resulting in a maximum acceptable reverberation time of about 1.7 s. It
means that this person can no longer understand speech in a big church or large meeting
hall even if it is completely quiet. In case the loss is about 60 dB the person can only
communicate well in well-furnished offices, but not in a large living with a modern design
interior.
3.4.3.
Tinnitus
Tinnitus may be defined as “a phantom perception of sound“, which a person perceives
as spontaneous auditory sensations, such as ringing, buzzing, or hissing in the absence
of an external signal. The source of the tinnitus sound lies within, rather than outside,
the auditory system. In almost all cases, persons with tinnitus have peripheral or central
auditory nervous system involvement. Subjective tinnitus, tinnitus originating within the
auditory system, is far more common than objective tinnitus.
24
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Tinnitus is often associated with hearing impairment, ageing and noise (Davis, 1989).
Estimates for the prevalence of tinnitus in the population need careful attention to detail
concerning the wording used and how the response is obtained (either by postal survey,
response to questionnaire in clinic, verbal response to clinician). It is useful to determine
the prevalence of tinnitus that last for more that five minutes and is not only after loud
sounds (Prolonged Spontaneous Tinnitus, PST), which was determined to be 10% by
postal questionnaire and 16% by clinical interview (Davis, 1995). There was evidence
that clinicians were not as rigorous as the patients in excluding tinnitus just after loud
sounds. Davis et al 2007 have shown that whilst 17.7% of people said that they had ever
experience such tinnitus about 4% have tinnitus most of the time and 0.4% have their
quality of life substantially affected by tinnitus. An other study by Job et al. (2000)
showed that in a representative sample of French youth of 18-24 years old, tinnitus was
frequently experienced in 8% of the subjects. In young people Smith et al. (2000) and
Lovell et al (1998) showed that 9.2% of young people aged 18-25 years reported PST
with only 6.8% in those who had not had substantial social noise exposure equivalent to
80 dB(A) leq40 for 50 years. For those who had a greater social noise exposure then the
prevalence of PST was 20%, a substantial increase over those who have less than this
significant level of noise exposure.
Many theories exist and have been published about the underlying physiological
mechanisms that cause subjective tinnitus (Baguley 2002). Generally, theories involve
hyperactive hair cells or nerve fibers activated by a chemical imbalance across cell
membranes or decoupling hair cell stereocilia. An alternate theory proposes that injury to
cochlear integrity from any cause reduces the suppressive influence of the central
nervous system, allowing increased neuronal activity higher in the auditory system.
Whatever the cellular mechanism is it appears that tinnitus can be caused by abnormal
conditions in the cochlea, the cochlear nerve, the ascending auditory pathway, or the
auditory cortex.
3.4.4.
Age-associated hearing loss
Hearing ability deteriorates with increasing age in virtually all members of human
populations. Numerous studies have quantified this phenomenon, to the extent that it is
characterised in international standard ISO 7029 (ISO 7029, 2000). The standard models
the distribution of hearing threshold levels in males and females separately in terms of
deviations from a baseline set at the age of 18 years. The distributions are semi-normal,
defined by mean values and standard deviations representing the upper and lower parts
of the distribution. The mean (equal to median) values rise gradually with age at first
then accelerate for older people. The standard deviations also increase with age, giving a
wide spread for older people. Hearing deteriorates more with age in men than in women.
The standard only specifies the distributions up to the age of 80 years, due to limitations
on the source data.
For the purposes of the present study, which involves only young adults, ISO 7029 shows
little change over the age range from 18-25 years. For example, at the median there is
an increase of less than 1 dB at any frequency from age 18 to 25 years in either males or
females.
There has been substantial debate about the baseline value used to represent hearing
threshold level for 18-year-olds. The original standard implied that a value of 0 dB should
be assumed based on numerous studies of highly screened populations of young adults.
However, those studies involved participants who were not representative of the
population at large and had thresholds that are slightly better than the whole population.
More recent studies in the UK have shown that a baseline in the range 2-7 dB is more
representative of the otologically normal UK population (Lutman and Davis 1994).
25
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.4.5.
Conclusions
Hearing impairment may be defined as a reduction in hearing acuity or sensitivity, or
tinnitus. Hearing loss is the inability of the affected individual to hear sounds at certain
levels that can be measured with pure-tone audiometry. According to the WHO Grades of
hearing loss no or very slight hearing problems exist when hearing threshold in the
better ear is at or below 25 dB.
The reduction in hearing acuity results in the impairment of speech understanding.
High-frequency hearing loss, which is typical for age and noise-related hearing
impairments may result in worsening speech-in-noise comprehension. It is on average by
1.2 dB per 10 dB. The ability to understand speech may be also impaired despite a
normal audiometric threshold due to loss of timing information.
Tinnitus defined as “a phantom perception of sound" is a common problem. It is usually
originating within the auditory system and is caused by abnormal conditions in the
cochlea, the cochlear nerve, the ascending auditory pathway, or the auditory cortex.
Hearing ability deteriorates with increasing age in virtually all people and this
deterioration accelerates for older people. In young adults, up to the age of 40, this
process is slow and leads to negligible levels of hearing impairment.
3.5. Noise-induced hearing loss and associated impairments
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) accrues progressively and often unnoticed until it has
reached a certain degree. The main site of impairment is the outer hair cells of the
cochlea, where the damage is irreversible (Bamiou and Lutman 2007). Very high levels of
noise exposure can lead to acute mechanical damage to inner and outer hair cells, but
this form of damage is very rare. More commonly, there is chronic damage that builds up
slowly over time. Since noise-induced hearing loss is irreversible, the main form of
treatment is prevention.
3.5.1.
Epidemiology of noise-induced hearing loss
Exposure to excessive noise is one major cause of hearing disorders worldwide. The
Word Health Organization programme for Prevention of Deafness and Hearing
Impairment (WHO 1997, Smith 1998) stated: "Exposure to excessive noise is the major
avoidable cause of permanent hearing impairment worldwide. Noise-induced hearing loss
is the most prevalent irreversible industrial disease, and the biggest compensatable
occupational hazard. More research is needed on basic mechanisms and means of
prevention". In a more recent report WHO states (WHO 2002, Nelson 2005) “Worldwide,
16% of the disabling hearing loss in adults is attributed to occupational noise, ranging
from 7% to 21% in the various subregions”. Surveys estimate that noise-induced hearing
loss (NIHL) affects 10 to 15 million people in the USA (see Lynch and Kil 2005). In the
UK (Palmer et al 2002b) showed that some about 180,000 people aged 35-64 years were
estimated to have severe hearing difficulties attributable to noise at work and for tinnitus
this increased to 350,000 people who were seriously affected. In France a survey by the
ministry of employment (Sumer: surveillance médicale des risques professionnels 2003,
Magaud-Camus 2005) indicates that approximately 7% of employed workers are exposed
to excessive noise levels (more than 85 dB(A) for at least 20 hours per week) and about
25 % are exposed to hazardous noise exposures (more than 85 dB(A) but less than 20
hours per week); most exposed workers belong to industry (18%) and, to agriculture
and house building (12%). Legally acceptable levels of noise exposure were defined
many years ago taking into account the two main physical parameters of acoustic
intensity and duration of exposure as used for reference above.
In order to better counteract NIHL a European directive that took effect in February
2006, lowered the first action level (provide protection) to 80 dB(A) (Directive
2003/10/EC, 2003). Acute acoustic trauma from firearms is the most frequent pathology
26
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
observed in the French army and unfortunately its prevalence increased by about 20
percent in 2006 (BS EN ISO 389-2:1997, 2006).
Although early reviews concluded that leisure noise was unlikely to be a significant threat
to hearing compared to occupational noise (e.g. MRC 1986), they noted a need for more
good data and research. Since then there have been significant changes in the patterns
of noise exposure. Smith et al. (2000) found that the numbers of young people with
social noise exposure had tripled (to around 19%) since the early 1980s, whilst
occupational noise had decreased.
This increase of risk is consistent with a recent study by Niskar et al (2001), who
estimated the prevalence of noise-induced hearing threshold shift among children aged
6-19 years in the third national health and nutrition examination survey of 1988-1994 in
the USA. They found that 12.5% had noise-induced threshold shift (NITS) in one or both
ears, with higher prevalence in boys (14.2%) compared to girls (10.1%), and in older
children aged 12-19 (15.5%) compared to 6-11 year olds (8.5%). 6kHz was the most
affected frequency (77.1%) compared to 4 kHz (23.8%) and 3 kHz (14.1%). A single
frequency was involved in 88.4% of children. Among children meeting NITS criteria
14.6% had a noise notch for both ears. No equivalent data exist yet on the European
population. In the earlier studies (Davis 1989, Davis 1995, Smith et al 2000) there was
no evidence of such notches in 18-25 year old individuals in the UK.
3.5.2.
Environmental noise exposure levels
In industry settings, the noise levels can average up to 90-125 dB in several areas of
work. Outside the workplace, a high risk of hearing impairment arises from attending
discos and rock concerts, exercising noisy sports (hunting, sports shooting, speedway) or
from exposures to military noise. Children could be exposed to noisy toys as trumpets
(92–125 dB SPL), whistles (107-129 dB SPL) and toy weapons (113- >135 dB SPL)
(Plontke et al. 2004).
By their leisure activities individuals expose themselves to noise sources including
personal music players which usually generate sounds across a broad frequency range
and reaching high sound pressure levels. The equivalent sound levels in discos range
from 104.3 to 112.4 dB(A), compared to 75 to 105 dB(A) from personal music players
(Serra et al. 2005). The noise dose measures over 4 hours showed an Laeq of 104.3 dB.
The nightclubs' average sound level ranged between 93.2 to 109.7 dB(A). Sounds other
than noise (such as music) can, at high acoustic levels, be as dangerous for hearing as
industrial noise.
There seems to be a trend for increased distribution and use of PMPs, and their improved
technical qualities allow for playback without distortion at high levels.
Environmental noise like traffic noise, aircraft noise, construction noise or neighbourhood
noise, although sometimes very annoying, does not reach the equivalent levels that can
be harmful to hearing. On the other hand, these sources of noise can cause non-auditory
effects.
3.5.3.
Exposure – effect relationship
As it was usefully summarised by Lutman et al. (2008), knowledge concerning the
relationship between noise exposure and NIHL is based on cross-sectional studies of
people exposed to noise, much of which was conducted several decades ago and which
concentrated on people exposed continuously to high levels of noise that were more
commonplace in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This knowledge is far from complete. Most
studies have suffered from the lack of appropriate non-exposed control subjects and
longitudinal studies are almost entirely lacking (Lutman and Davis 1996). Authoritative
reports have involved large primary studies or have synthesised data from several large
primary studies. The seminal study of Burns and Robinson (1970) has been influential in
the UK and elsewhere. It formed the basis of the first edition of the international
27
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
standard ISO 1999 in 1975 and has been embodied in the National Physical Laboratory
(NPL) tables that are still used widely for prediction of NIHL in populations exposed to
noise. The later version of ISO 1999 in 1990 (ISO 1999:1990) synthesised data from
studies in the US as well as from the studies of Burns and Robinson to derive formula for
predicting NIHL. An advantage of ISO 1999 (ISO 1999:1990) is that it allows the user to
insert different values to account for the effects of age-associated hearing loss. This
facility has enabled ISO 1999 to keep up with developing the current understanding of
the effects of age on hearing and the recognition that there are important socio-economic
factors governing hearing acuity. This is an important achievement because the nonexposed controls used in many studies of NIHL have been drawn from different socioeconomic groups than the exposed participants (e.g. office worker, researchers,
university staff).
All of the above methods account for the combined effects of age and noise exposure by
simple addition of the hearing losses from the two origins, or by a slight modification of
simple addition. The modified addition incorporated in ISO 1999 (ISO 1999:1990) slightly
reduces the resultant hearing loss compared to simple addition. However, this effect is
negligible for combined hearing loss lower than 40 dB and for the present purposes can
be ignored.
ISO 1999 allows prediction of the distribution of NIHL to be expected from any
cumulative amount of noise exposure. This is combined with (in most cases simply added
to) distribution of age-associated hearing loss appropriate to the population in question.
This calculated distribution of NIHL allows estimation of the probability that a given
magnitude of overall hearing loss will be exceeded. In the context of the present study,
noise levels in the range from 80-95 dB(A) are of interests. Based on ISO 1999, the
following table (Table 5) shows the extent of NIHL to be expected from a working lifetime
of 45 years at daily continuous noise levels of 80, 85, 90 and 95 dB(A). The values are
for NIHL at 4 kHz, which is the frequency predicted to give the greatest hearing loss.
Values are given for the median and the 5th centile (value exceeded by 5% of
population). These data constitute the noise-induced component of hearing loss alone.
Note that hearing loss is minimal for exposures at 80 dB(A), even at the 5th centile, and
increases at higher levels.
NIHL at 4 kHz in dB
Daily noise level in dB(A)
80
85
90
95
Median
1.7
6.6
14.9
26.5
5th centile
2.2
8.8
19.6
35.1
Table 5:
NIHL predicted from ISO 1999 as a function of noise exposure level for 45
years (adapted from Lutman et al 2008)
Table 6 shows similar data for the much shorter exposure durations of 3 years, which is
more relevant to the present opinion. Note that in that case, NIHL is less likely than after
45 years of exposure, as expected. However, the proportion is greater than simply
dividing the amount of hearing loss pro rata. To a rough approximation, the magnitude of
NIHL after 3 years is 43% of the NIHL after 45 years. The use of this model suggests a
departure from the equal energy principle in the direction that more NIHL occurs in the
early years of exposure and clearly suggests that preventive measures must be aimed at
those who start noise exposure from PMPs when young. Note that at 4 kHz there is more
damage earlier; at 1 kHz the damage is less and is later. Hence overall damage to the
cochlear can be related to the equal energy principle. ISO 1999 accommodates this trend
by assuming that the noise level has to exceed 90 dB(A) to affect hearing at 1 kHz and
93 dB(A) to affect hearing at 500 Hz, but 77/78 dB to affect hearing at 4 kHz.
28
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
NIHL at 4 kHz in dB
Median
th
5
centile
Daily noise level in dB(A)
80
85
90
95
0.7
2.9
6.5
11.6
1.0
3.8
8.4
15.0
Table 6:
NIHL predicted from ISO 1999 as a function of noise level for 3 years
(adapted from Lutman et al 2008)
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
18-40
41-60
61-80
<80 dBA Leq 40
50 yr
80-89 dBA
Prevalence 25+ dB HL 4kHz (%)
Prevalence 25+ dB HL (%)
Until now, we have limited evidence about what exactly makes some subjects more
vulnerable than others, but it is well established, that anatomical details play a significant
role among other factors.
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
18-40
41-60
61-80
<80 dBA Leq 40
50 yr
90-99 dBA
41-60
61-80
Prevalence 35+dBHL 4kHz (%)
18-40
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
P revalence 45+ dBHL 4kHz (% )
Prevalence 35+dBHL (%)
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
80-89 dBA
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
18-40
41-60
61-80
<80 dBA Leq 40
50 yr
90-99 dBA
Prevalence 45+dBHL (%)
18-40
41-60
61-80
80-89 dBA
80-89 dBA
90-99 dBA
Noise exposure
Noise exposure
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
<80 dBA Leq 40 50
yr
90-99 dBA
Noise exposure
Noise exposure
<80 dBA Leq 40
50 yr
80-89 dBA
90-99 dBA
18-40
41-60
61-80
<80 dBA Leq 40 50
yr
Noise exposure
80-89 dBA
90-99 dBA
Noise exposure
Figure 2:
The prevalence of hearing impairment as a function of age group (18-40,
41-60 and 61-80) as a function of degree of hearing impairment (25, 35 and 45 dB HL+)
and noise exposure (<80, 80-89 and 90-99 dB(A) Lequ 40 for 50 years equivalent) that
was gained through occupational noise exposure for average hearing level (0.5, 1, 2 and
4 kHz) and for 4 kHz alone; data taken from Davis 1995 and presented in these figures
especially to draw out main points for this work.
29
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
The relationship between age, noise exposure and prevalence is complex and takes many
years to be manifest for a particular cohort. Data from the MRC National Study of
Hearing (Davis 1989, Davis 1995) has been re-drawn for the working group to show the
prevalence of hearing impairment for men only who have had a zero noise exposure or a
measured amount of noise exposure from their occupations. Figure 2 shows the
prevalence of three different degrees of hearing impairment as a function of age group
(in roughly 20 years age bands). Noise immission has been allocated into three
categories. The first is a level at which there would be no danger due to occupational
noise, given the level, pattern and duration of occupational noise exposures (<80 dB(A)
Leq 40 for 50 years or less). The second level is 80-89 dB(A) and the third 90-99 dB(A)
on same scale equivalence. It is clear from the left panel of Figure 2 that shows the
prevalence using the four frequency average threshold (0.5, 1, 2 and 4 kHz) that the 1840 age group had no slope at all in terms of the prevalence over noise exposure groups.
So there is no relationship at all between the prevalence and noise exposure until the age
group of 40–60 when the data show a significant increase across noise exposure groups.
This is similar for the oldest age group as well. It may be argued that the effects of
earlier damage due to noise appear later, but they are evident at an earlier age in the
4 kHz region of the cochlear that are more susceptible to damage. The data for the 4 kHz
threshold alone is shown in the right hand panel and shows that there is indeed a
significant effect of noise immission for the youngest age groups at prevalence of at least
25 dBHL for <80 dB(A) Lequ 40 vs 80-89 dB(A) (χ2 = 5.55, p<.0185, df=1), but not for
the more disabling levels at 35 and 45 dBHL.
Clearly noise immission from occupational noise at the lowest levels of risk (80-89 dB(A)
Lequ 40) affect prevalence of hearing impairment at 25 dBHL+, in younger people aged
18-40 but continue to have a larger impact in older people (for whom the noise has
stopped on the whole). As there is no scientific evidence that social noise produces
different NIHL levels compared to occupational noise, the model makes clear that at
typical noise exposures it will take many years for the exposure to impact on the
individual and to be measured in the population. However, 4 kHz seems an excellent
frequency at which to measure initial effects.
3.5.4.
Mechanisms of noise-induced hearing loss
3.5.4.1. Overview of pathophysiological effects of noise
At very high acoustic levels as in cases of bomb blast the traumatizing sound can induce
mechanical breaks at different parts of the ear such as the eardrum, the ossicles joints
and the basilar membrane, these effects being visible with simple optic microscopy.
However, in the vast majority of cases acoustic trauma induces less visible damage to
the inner ear. A loss of hair cells (the cochlear sensory cells which transform sound into
biological processes) has long been the main or only morphological sign of pathology,
detected by optic microscopy in specimen obtained after death. It can be observed only
in cases of permanent hearing loss and not earlier than several days after acoustic
trauma. It is always found in good correlation with the functional (audiometric) measures
of hearing loss both for frequency extent and for amount of loss in decibels. The larger
the frequency extent of the loss, the wider the loss of hair cells along the cochlea, and,
for each sound frequency, the greater the loss in decibels the greater the number of lost
hair cells. However, detection of (surviving) hair cells does not mean that they are
functional. With the advent of electron microscopy many histological (tissue) and/or
cytological (cell) alterations within the cochlea have been observed indicating several
different pathological processes occurring more or less simultaneously in the cochlea in
response to acoustic trauma. Many of these alterations are not specific for acoustic
trauma but represent basic cellular pathological processes which occur in various other
diseases of the ear. In early studies a major observed sign was the breaking or fusion of
the cilia of hair cells which remains the most specific morphopathology for acoustic
trauma. Among the several other alterations observed are: damage to cochlear
vasculature associated with altered cochlear blood flow, loss of fibrocytes probably
30
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
associated with decreased endocochlear potential, rupture of attachments of stereocilia
tips to the tectorial membrane, distension or rupture of tip links involved in transduction,
damage to pillar cells, swelling or rupture of dendrites below inner hair cells. Excessive
noise can induce damage to most cell types in the cochlea, but presently the sequence of
these pathological events and their cause/effect relationships remain poorly known.
The histological examination of human temporal bones is a rare opportunity. In recent
years only two such histological studies were performed from subjects with a known
NIHL, which confirmed a loss of hair cell associated with a degeneration of neural cells
with possible signs of alterations of the cochlear vasculature (Rask-Andersen et al. 2000,
Nakamoto et al. 2005).
The development of cell and molecular biology provided new insights and investigation
tools concerning various pathological cell processes. Among those pathologies associated
with excess of free radicals and those involved in apoptosis (or “programmed cell death”
proved very fruitful.
The damage of outer hair cells (OHC) impairs an active, non-linear, biomechanical
cochlear feedback process along with a decreasing hearing sensitivity and frequency
selectivity. Total OHC loss results in a hearing impairment of 50-70 dB (sensitivity
threshold for persisting inner hair cells (IHC)), recruitment and a loss of otoacoustic
emission (Hamernik et al. 1989, Gao et al. 1992). A decrease in frequency selectivity
results in poor speech intelligibility particularly in noisy and/or reverberant environments.
Animal studies have shown that the damage to the cochlea corresponds well with the
frequency of the noise (with ½ octave shift toward higher frequencies). However, human
exposures to broadband occupational or environmental noise result uniformly in high
frequency hearing threshold shift, particularly at the frequencies of 4-6 kHz, regardless of
the noise spectrum. This phenomenon can be explained by the anatomical configuration
of human external and middle ear and its nonlinear properties.
There are two functional consequences of noise exposure and cochlear lesion to hearing,
namely temporary threshold shift (TTS) and permanent threshold shift (PTS) (Plontke et
al. 2004).
The most essential parameters for TTS or PTS development include:
•
Sound pressure level (SPL) of noise
•
The rapidity with which sound levels increase (impulse noise vs continuous noise)
•
Exposure time
•
Vulnerability of the inner ear
In principle, short exposures to moderately high levels of non-impulse noise, producing
reversible changes to the cochlea, result in the TTS; while long exposures (of 4 hours or
more in animal experiments) to high levels of noise, producing irreversible changes to
the cochlea, result in the PTS. Impulse noise is significantly more harmful than steadystate noise, because the impulses are of very high sound pressure levels (up to 190 dB
SPL in the military), and the duration of impulses is too brief that the stapedial reflex
(possibly protective contraction of middle ear muscles) has not enough time to conteract,
this reflex offers anyhow very little or no protection at high frequencies. However, the
relationship between exposure parameters is not as simple as described above. It has
been shown that exposure to noise under similar, controlled conditions, in some subjects
can result in TTS, while in others in PTS. This finding points to different inter-individual
vulnerability of the internal ear.
The vulnerability of the inner ear depends on several environmental and intrinsic factors,
like smoking, hypertension, lipids level, age, gender, eye colour and other parameters of
anatomy and micro-anatomy some of which are controlled by genetic factors
31
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.5.4.2. Biological processes involved in noise effects
Many research studies have been performed over more than 50 years to understand
physiological dysfunctions induced by excessive noise exposure. Over the last five years
or so, new and promising data have uncovered several series of factors having a
determinant role. The main results are presented below, schematically divided into four
categories.
Acoustic factors
In some circumstances an acquired resistance to noise exposure can happen. Exposure
to a previous non traumatizing sound may prevent acoustic trauma by a later noise
exposure this is known as sound conditioning (Canlon et al. 1988). Liu et al. (2000)
further extended earlier findings by showing that low-frequency conditioning sounds
could protect from low and middle frequency noise damage. Niu and Canlon (2002)
revealed an up-regulation of neurotransmitter release in cochlear efferents in the process
of sound conditioning. Cochlear toughening refers to the increased resistance happening
over repeated noise exposure in some conditions, in recent experiments Hamernik et al.
(2003) further characterized acoustic parameters influencing this phenomenon.
The very long term effects of noise as possibly emerging only at an old age have received
contradictory support from several epidemiologic studies (Ferrite and Santana 2005, Lee
et al. 2005, Rosenhall 2003, Gates et al. 2000). Very recent experimental data (Kujawa
and Liberman 2006) suggest that early noise exposure can render the inner ear more
vulnerable to aging. Unnoticeable effects can also occur over years as indicated by small
instabilities in cochlear functioning which were observed in students exposed to noise in
their leisure-times (Rosanowski et al. 2006).
During the post noise exposure period the presence of loud sounds influences the amount
of recovery. Very few studies were devoted to these influences the effective parameters
of which are poorly known (Niu et al. 2004, Norena and Eggermont 2005). The beneficial
effects of these post-trauma environmental sounds can be quite large and as they are
easy to control in humans they have very high potential clinical implications.
Epidemiologic data also point to similar significant effects in humans (Abbate et al.
2005).
Environmental factors other than acoustics
Exposure to several chemicals and lowered levels of breathed oxygen were found to
increase NIHL. It was observed that chemical asphyxiants potentiated NIHL (Fechter et
al. 2000) such as Hydrogen cyanide (Fechter et al. 2002), acrylonitrile (one of the 50
most commonly produced industrial chemicals) (Fechter et al. 2003). Hypoxia, the low
oxygen breathing, was found to extend NIHL to all frequencies above those of the noise
(Chen and Liu 2005). Smoking was also found a significant risk factor potentiating NIHL
in epidemiologic surveys (Burr et al. 2005, Ferrite and Santana 2005, Wild et al. 2005).
Efferent and sympathetic innervations
The efferent and sympathetic innervations of the cochlea (a retrocontrol from the brain
to the cochlea) seem to have almost no influence upon the normal functioning of the
cochlea as their suppression does not lead to noticeable changes. However, they do
influence cochlear reactivity in adverse conditions, and this has been particularly well
observed with NIHL. A protective role of the efferent system upon NHIL was uncovered
many years ago (Cody and Johnstone 1982). Over the last years significant progress was
made regarding exposure parameters leading or not leading to protection (Rajan 2001,
Rajan 2003). The predictive value of an efferent response to assess susceptibility to NHIL
remains controversial (Maison et al. 2002, Luebke et Foster 2002, Wagner et al. 2005),
its involvement in sound conditioning was shown by Niu and Canlon (2002). An influence
of the sympathetic cochlear innervation on NIHL was uncovered several years ago (Borg
1982), and later studied. Some experiments (Horner et al. 2001, Giraudet et al. 2002)
32
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
further extended such observations and pointed to an interaction with the efferent
innervation, they also showed modification of cochlear sensitivity to acoustic trauma by
anaesthesia or even sedation.
Protective factors
Several newly tested drugs have been proven experimentally to provide protective or
reparative properties with regard to NIHL. The pharmacological actions of the drugs are
only partly known and many have several metabolic effects and it is difficult to know
which of its metabolic properties is involved in NIHL. While recognizing this complexity it
is fruitful both for presentation and reasoning to use main pharmacologic categories.
Thus drugs are presented here below into five main categories.
Anti-inflammatory
Both steroidal and non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were found to provide
protection against NIHL. Salicylate was found to facilitate recovery from acoustic trauma
(Yu et al. 1999), in a later study salicylate in combination with trolox (an anti-NOoxidant)
it was shown to decrease NIHL (Yamashita et al. 2005). Corticoids when combined with
hyperbaric oxygenation were shown to provide rescue post-trauma in animal
experiments (d’Aldin et al. 1999, Lamm and Arnold 1999), this was confirmed and
extended by experiments last year in our group (Fakhry et al. 2007). A role of stress and
corticosterone in protecting against NIHL was observed (Wang and Liberman 2002).
Three recent studies indicate the beneficial action of dexamethasone on NIHL (Takemura
et al. 2004, Tahera et al. 2006, Sendowski et al. 2006a) the last publication comes from
a laboratory involved in the project.
Anti-oxidants
Over the last three years about twenty publications documented the protective effects of
drugs with anti-oxidant properties upon NIHL. These drugs are further somehow
differentiated by the authors with regards to their anti-ROS or anti-NOS properties, drugs
of both classes were found effective. Approximately 12 different drugs were tested. Some
were found repeatedly protective: - N-acetylcysteine (Ohinata et al. 2003, Duan et al.
2004, Kopke et al. 2005), - allopurinol (Franze et al. 2003, Cassandro et al. 2003), ebselen (Pourbakht and Yamasoba 2003, Lynch et al. 2004), - edaravone (Takemoto et
al. 2004, Tanaka et al. 2005) among these at least two are already clinically accepted
drugs at least in some countries. Other drugs already clinically accepted as salicylate,
vitamin c or vitamin e were also found protective.
Anti-apoptotics
Once NIHL cochlear damage has started as through inflammatory and/or oxidative or
other processes apoptotic processes can be triggered and lead to sensory and neural
cochlear cell disparition. Five different drugs were reported to be protective aginst NIHL :
riluzole (Wang et al. 2002), a peptide inhibitor of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (Wang et al.
2003), calcineurin inhibitors (Minami et al. 2004), all-trans retinoic acid, an active
metabolite of vitamin a (Ahn et al. 2005) and, Src-PTK inhibitors (Harris et al. 2005). The
potential use of these drugs seems far away at present because of high dose levels
needed and low bioavailability with clinical routes of administration.
Neurologic factors
Administration of several neurotrophic factors was found protective against NIHL: - ciliary
neurotrophic factor (Zhou et al. 1999), - GDNF and/or NT3 (Yang et al. 2001, Chen et al.
2002), basic fibroblast growth factor (Zhai et al. 2002, Zhai et al. 2004). Modulators of
neurotransmission were also found protective: noradrenergic related compounds (Horner
33
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
et al. 1998, Giraudet et al. 2002), and NMDA blocking agents (Chen et al. 2003, Diao et
al. 2005, Ruel et al. 2005).
Miscellanious
Hypothermia (Henry 2003), prior heat acclimatation (Paz et al. 2004) and a heat shock
protein inducer (Mikuriya et al. 2005) were reported to protect from NIHL, as were also
ATP (Sugahara et al. 2004), NO inhibitors (Xiong et al. 2002, Ohinata et al. 2003) and a
calcium pump activator (Liu et al. 2002). A special reference must be made to
magnesium treatment which was found repeatedly protective (Scheibe et al. 2001,
Scheibe et al 2002, Haupt et al. 2003, Attias et al. 2003 , Sendowski et al. 2006b).
3.5.5.
Clinical evaluation of noise damage
3.5.5.1. Hearing loss
NIHL refers mostly to deafness, the inability to hear certain sounds, but this hearing loss
is most often associated with considerable difficulties in auditory discrimination of
simultaneous sounds, such as speech understanding in a noisy environment, which
affects notably social interactions. In addition NIHL is often associated with tinnitus which
may also be very damaging to a person’s living, and sometimes also with hypersensitivity
to loud sounds. Overall NIHL has a noxious socio-economic impact for both the affected
person and the society in which he lives. The noise-induced auditory impairments are
most often progressive and insidious, they begin at high frequencies with only slight
disturbances hardly perceptible which usually disappear within some time after noise
exposure and so they are almost always neglected. However, over time and repeated
exposures these troubles progressively increase to become a patent nuisance, but then
physiological damages to the ear are almost always irreversible and at present quasi
incurable.
Subjective audiometry
NIHL is evident on the audiogram as mild or moderate bilateral sensory (cochlear)
hearing loss, predominantly at high frequencies. The greatest hearing loss is commonly
at 4 kHz, giving rise to the typical 4 kHz notch in the audiogram pattern (Alberti 1977).
Although the notched audiogram is the most specific audiometric feature of NIHL, recent
studies re-emphasized that caution should taken to this feature as it can be seen in ear
pathologies of other causes and that a significant number of NIHL do not show a notched
audiogram (Murai 1997, McBride and Williams 2001, Schmuzigert et al. 2006).
In line with previous studies several articles confirmed that very often in NIHL acoustic
sensitivity at the very high frequencies (which are not measured in usual audiometry)
shows deficiencies starting earlier than at other classical frequencies (Wang et al. 2000,
Ahmed et al. 2001, Schmuzigert et al. 2006).
It was also confirmed that NIHL due to impulse sounds such as firearms shots produce
on average more loss at high frequencies and may have longer-lasting effects
(Schmuzigert et al. 2006, Tambs et al. 2006).
Although hearing losses appear stabilized over years it may continue to progress and
affect lower frequencies (Gates et al. 2000, Brickner et al. 2005). The loss of sensitivity
for quiet sounds is accompanied by a loss of frequency resolution which then affects
speech recognition. Typically, people with NIHL complain of loss of perceived clarity of
speech and greater difficulty than normal following speech in a background of noise.
Objective audiometry
Auditory-evoked potentials can be useful to monitor and/or ascertain NIHL. Past studies
using late cortical potentials and brainstem potentials were forsaken in recent years (only
34
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
the new technique of steady state evoked potentials was tried (Hsu et al. 2003)) while all
attention was given to early sensory cochlear responses known as otoacoustic emissions
(OAEs).
Transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions (TEOAEs) allow a quick check of cochlear
sensitivity and responsiveness to sound however because it uses a transient sound it
lacks frequency specificity. TEOAEs were found to provide a coarse but reasonably good
indication of NIHL quite often permitting to detect alterations occurring earlier than
classical puretone subjective audiometry (Avan et al. 2000, Attias et al. 2001, Wang H,
et al. 2004, Lapsley Miller et al. 2004, Konopka et al. 2005a, Konopka et al. 2005b,
Jedrzejczak et al. 2005, Nottet et al. 2006, Job et al. 2002; Job et al. 2007).
Distortion-product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) allow a frequency specific testing at
least at middle and high frequencies at the price of being more time-consuming. Their
frequency selectivity often but not always provide a good correspondence with the pure
tone audiogram and may detect earlier alterations (Morant Ventura et al. 2000, Zhang et
al. 2000, Sliwinska-Kowalska and Kotylo 2001, Han et al. 2003, Namysłowski et al. 2004,
Balatsouras 2004, Zhang et al. 2004, Seixas et al. 2004, Avan and Bonfils 2005,
Konopka et al. 2006, Sisto et al. 2007, Shupak et al. 2007).
3.5.5.2. Vestibular effect
It has been repeatedly observed that alterations of the vestibule (the other
mechanoreceptor of the inner ear besides the cochlea participating in balance and
posture) could show signs of dysfunction in several cases of NIHL. These vestibular
responses to sound are also known as the Tullio phenomenon and can be objectively
studied using the vestibule-collic reflex. This was confirmed by recent studies which also
showed that there was no clear relation between the degrees of vestibular and of
cochlear dysfunctions (Teszler et al. 2000, Golz et al. 2001, Wang et al. 2001, van der
Laan 2001).
3.5.5.3. Noise-induced tinnitus
The prevalence of tinnitus (or ringing in the ear) in noise-exposed populations seems to
be much higher than in general populations. It has been estimated at prevalence 37% for
less than 10 years of exposure and 50% for 11-30 years of exposure to noise. Noiseinduced tinnitus may be temporary or permanent. This can be the only indication of
hearing damage in the early stage, which may then be accompanied by hearing loss with
continued exposure. Recent studies confirmed that when associated with NIHL it is
almost invariably of high pitch, with a tonal or narrow frequency-band timbre. It has
been reported that the duration of tinnitus is not related to the amount of acoustic
trauma (Nottet et al 2006). Tinnitus appears very early after an impulse sound trauma,
as well as other very loud sound exposures, then it is often temporary. In opposition, in
several continuous long-term noise exposures scenarios it often appears after years, but
remains permanent.
Trials to alleviate tinnitus through physiological means re-emphasized the efficiency of
electric stimulation of the cochlea (although potentially hazardous in the long term) and
explored with uncertain success several drug treatments. Psychological therapies remain
the most common option (Axelsson and Prasher 2000, Konopka et al. 2001, Kowalska
and Sulkowski 2001, Markou et al. 2001, Mrena et al. 2002, Attias et al. 2003, Emmerich
et al. 2002, Nicolas-Puel et al. 2002, Rosenhall 2003, Mrena et al. 2004, Bauer 2006,
Holgers 2006, Nottet et al. 2006, König et al. 2006, Nicolas-Puel et al. 2006, Mrena et al.
2007). When tinnitus becomes permanent, wearing a hearing aid may also provide help.
3.5.6.
Vulnerability factors
It remains a puzzle to observe a very large interindividual variability in susceptibility to
NIHL. Whether and how much individual vulnerability is dependent upon external
35
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
conditions occurring at time of acoustic trauma or internal conditions linked to the
genetics and physiological condition of the subject remains unknown. Significant
progresses have been performed recently on these issues.
3.5.6.1. Environmental factors
Noise exposures in combination with several chemical and physical hazards, as well as
ototoxic drugs may produce more hearing impairment than could be expected from
noise-only exposure.
Chemicals
Chemicals are frequent contaminants in industry, some of them might be also common in
general environment (heavy metals) or are used in everyday life (paints and lacquers).
They are classified into three major groups: organic solvents, heavy metals, and
asphyxiants.
Almost all studies about association of solvent fumes respiration with traumatizing sound
exposure confirm their clear potentiation of NIHL, (Campo et al. 2001, Morata et al.
2002, Morata et al. 2003, Sliwinska-Kowalska 2003, Sliwinska-Kowalska et al. 2005, ElShazly 2006).
Organic solvents
Ototoxic effects of organic aromatic solvents, such as toluene, styrene, xylene,
trichloroethylene, benzene, n-hexane and their mixtures are well recognized. These
chemicals are frequent air contaminants in industry, such as in paint and lacquer
factories, dockyards, printing industry, yacht manufacturing, furniture making, plastics
and fibers processing, rubber tires production and many other industrial activities.
Exposure may also occur in domestic settings through processed wood products, plastics
furnishing, paints and lacquers. Animal studies have shown that several organic solvents,
as has been exemplified by styrene and toluene, damage the cochlea (predominantly the
supporting and outer hair cells) in rats and the exposure produces mid-frequency hearing
loss (Sliwinska-Kowalska et al. 2007). Alcohol exposure, although alone it does not
produce hearing loss, increases significantly the degree of hearing impairment caused by
styrene or toluene (Campo et al. 1998, Campo et al. 2000). Synergistic effects occur in
rats exposed to both noise and solvents (Campo et al. 2001, Sliwinska-Kowalska et al.
2007). It means that hearing impairment is higher than the sum of hearing loss produced
by solvent exposure and noise exposure alone. In combined exposures, the most
important factor for inducing hearing impairment is potency of noise exposure (level,
impulsiveness); concomitant exposure to organic solvents may induce impairment where
the exposure to noise alone may have little effect.
The ototoxicity of organic solvents in occupationally exposed human individuals is more
difficult to elucidate. This is because the concentration of chemicals is much lower than
that used in animal studies, and the workers are usually exposed to a mixture of solvents
at widely varying compositions and concentrations, disabling the assessment of the effect
of a single substance (Sliwinska-Kowalska et al. 2001). However, investigations on
humans confirm the findings in animals. It has been shown that organic solvents have
detrimental effects not only on peripheral, but also on central part of the auditory
pathway (Johnson et al. 2006, Fuente and McPherson B 2007). Thus, pure-tone
audiogram might be insufficient to monitor this effect, and central auditory tests must be
implemented. An additive or synergistic effect occurs in case of the combined exposure
to noise and solvents, significantly increasing the odds ratio of developing hearing loss
(Sliwinska-Kowalska et al. 2003, Sliwinska-Kowalska et al. 2004). The risk for hearing
loss increases with the growing number of solvents in a mixture.
36
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Heavy metals
Extensive use of heavy metals in industry adds to the environmental exposures to these
substances. Heavy metals are not metabolised by the body and accumulate in the soft
tissues or in the bones, causing toxic effects. They may enter the human body through
food, water, air, or absorption through the skin when they come in contact with humans
in residential and occupational settings as well as in the general environment. Commonly
encountered toxic heavy metals include lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic.
Lead
Most of the lead is used for batteries. The remainder is used for cable coverings,
plumbing, ammunition, and fuel additives. It has been shown that the exposure to lead
results in delayed wave I latency of ABR, implying cochlear dysfunction (Osman et al.
1999). But the findings on lead-induced hearing loss are inconsistent (Farahat et al.
1997, Forst et al. 1997, Baloh et al. 1979, Counter et al. 1997, Otto et al. 1985,
Buchanan et al. 1999).
There are very few studies exploring the effects of combined lead and noise exposure.
Elevated hearing thresholds have not been reported for lead and noise combined
exposure (Wu et al. 2000).
Mercury
Mercury is found in dental amalgams, aquatic sediments, thermometers, vaccine
preservatives, to quote a few examples. It is present in the atmosphere, and also in
shark-, sword-, tuna-fish and other fish species. First, mercury intoxication was reported
in 1953 among persons living in the vicinity of Minamata, Japan, where mercurycontaining effluent flowing from a chemical manufacturing plant into the local bay
contaminated shellfish. Hearing impairment and deafness were reported among other
neurological symptoms of the “Minamata disease”.
Mercury affects hearing, with central conduction time delay (ABR I-V, III-V), but cochlear
function may be unaffected (Counter et al. 1998a and b, Rice and Gilbert 1992; Murata
et al. 1999).
Cadmium
Cadmium is used e.g. in nickel-cadmium batteries, PVC plastics, and paint pigments.
Cadmium causes dose-dependent hearing loss in rats; wave I was delayed, implying
cochlear dysfunction. Zinc-enriched diet reduced the ototoxic effect of cadmium, while
noise exposure shows a synergistic effect at 4 and 6kHz (De Abreu and Suzuki 2002).
Arsenic
Arsenic is released into the environment by the smelting process of copper, zinc, and
lead, as well as in the manufacture of chemicals and glass. Arsenic overexposure results
in disorders in the Organ of Corti beginning at the apex with the greatest hearing losses
in the lower frequencies (at 125, 250, and 500 Hz). Arsenic produces also balance
disturbances.
Asphyxiants
Carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen cyanide (HCN) bind hemoglobin heme, thereby
preventing oxygen transportation. The CO intoxication (e.g. in gas stove accidents)
results in hearing impairment, dizziness and headache. Dizziness and headache were also
noted in the prolonged intoxication with HCN and SO2. These gases are common air
pollutants; thus, HCN and SO2 exposures affect the majority of individuals. CO and HCN
potentiate damaging effect of noise to hearing in animals. The effects of combined
exposure to noise and asphyxiants in human are not fully recognized.
37
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Vibration
Vibration-induced hearing loss may be developed in patients after temporal bone surgery
or in subjects working with vibrating tools. In such cases, co-exposure to noise and
vibration can increase hearing threshold shift compared to noise-only exposure.
Recent studies concerning association of body vibration with sound trauma brought
contradictory and inconclusive results (Palmer et al. 2002a, Silva et al. 2005).
3.5.6.2. Ototoxic drugs
Several drugs used in contemporary medicine can damage hearing. Ototoxic effect
depends on the dose, way of application and the type of medicine. Although these drugs
can damage hearing at different levels of the auditory pathway, majority of them exert
mainly cochlear ototoxic effect and they are competitive with noise in damaging hair
cells.
The main groups of drugs that can cause hearing loss are:
-
antibiotics (aminoglycosides, macrolides)
-
antineoplastic drugs (cisplatinum, carboplatinum)
-
loop diuretics (furosemide, ethacrinic acid)
-
non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (acetyl salicylate acid)
-
antimalaric drugs.
The most commonly used drugs that have been reported in the literature to result in
hearing damage are aminoglycosides and anti-neoplasmatic drugs. Aminoglycosides are
used parenterally in treating severe bacterial infections. After prolonged treatment with
such aminoglycosides like gentymycin, kanamycin, amikacin, hearing loss at high
frequencies, tinnitus and vestibular disorders were noted. The changes in hearing are
irreversible. Prior exposure to noise (and vibration) increases the risk of hearing
impairment due to aminoglycosides. The ototoxic effect depends on genetically
determined susceptibility; it increases with high concentration of ferrum ions in the
blood, and low protein diet. Anti-oxidant substances (like Vitamins A, C and E) have been
shown to be protective.
It has been shown that cancer chemotherapy with cis-platinum produces hearing loss in
up to 31% of patients. As in noise-induced hearing loss and aminoglycoside-induced
hearing loss, these chemotherapeutics affect mainly hair cells of the basic turn in the
cochlea and result in high-frequency (above 2 kHz) hearing impairment. Noise exposure
at the time of chemotherapy significantly increases the risk of hearing damage.
3.5.6.3. Genetics
The advance of genetic research and associated tools triggered a series of explorations of
the human genes possibly involved in NIHL, first evidences point to some candidate
genes and seem to exclude other genes (Fortunato et al. 2004, Heinonen-Guzejev et al.
2005, Yang et al. 2005, Yang et al. 2006, Van Laer et al. 2006, Yang et al. 2006,
Sliwińska-Kowalska et al. 2006, Konings et al. 2007, Van Eyken et al. 2007). The
mechanisms of acoustic trauma involve both metabolic stress and micromechanical
damage to the outer hair cells, predominantly to their stereocilia. Thus, good candidate
genes are those encoding oxidative stress enzymes, mitochondrial proteins, and proteins
involved in K+ recycling pathway. The importance of oxidative stress genes has been
shown in knockout mice, including SOD1-/- (Ohlemiller et al. 1999), GPX1-/- (Ohlemiller et
al. 2000), and PMCA2-/- mice (Kozel et al. 2002), all of which were more sensitive to
noise than their wild-type littermates. However, these results have not been confirmed in
humans (Carlsson et al. 2005). A more recent study suggests a possible role of
potassium recycling pathway genes in the susceptibility to NIHL in human workers (Van
Laer et al. 2006).
38
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Some of the differences in susceptibility to NIHL have been attributed to various other
genetically dependent factors, like eye colour (blue-eyed more susceptible), and
pigmentation (African-Americans showed a somewhat better average in hearing
threshold levels than Caucasians), gender (women less susceptible than men), age, etc
(Henderson et al. 1993, Pyykkö et al. 2007). Also short stature has been recently
recognized as a risk factor for developing sensorineural hearing impairment (Barrenäs et
al. 2005).
3.5.6.4. Other factors
The gender of an individual has been often considered as a possible influencing factor
with men appearing somewhat more affected than women. The difference however
seems minimal if present (Müller 1989).
A predominance of left ear vulnerability as compared with right ear has been confirmed
(Nageris et al. 2007) but the difference is small and shows mostly on average data.
Cardio-vascular alteration was often studied as a possible factor influencing NIHL but
data are contradictory and the subject remains a matter of debate. Recent studies tend
to confirm that alterations of blood pressure can be related with NIHL but it remains
unknown whether it might be a cause or a simultaneous effect (Souto Souza et al. 2001,
Toppila et al. 2001, Narlawar et al. 2006, Ni et al. 2007). A more detailed presentation is
provided further in this report.
Evidence that smoking increases the risk of NIHL were provided long ago, all recent
studies on this matter confirmed this assertion (Mizoue et al. 2003, Ferrite and Santana
2005, Uchida et al. 2005, Burr et al. 2005, Wild et al. 2005, García Callejo et al. 2006,
Pouryaghoub et al. 2007).
Vitamin deficiencies were previously suspected to influence NIHL. Two recent studies
brought evidence for the involvement of vitamin B12 (Quaranta et al. 2004, Gok et al.
2004).
The cochlear efferent innervation has long been known to be involved in NIHL. Recent
studies further showed that assessment of cochlear efferent functioning did not clearly
relate with NIHL (Veuillet et al. 2001, Shupak et al. 2007, Wagner et al. 2005).
The production of heat shock proteins constitute a physiological response to stress, first
evidence for their implication in NIHL was recently provided (Yang et al. 2004, Yuan et
al. 2005).
3.5.7.
Therapies
Many therapies have been tried in the past with at best limited positive results. Recent
progress in cell biology has provided a wealth of new molecules with possible therapeutic
potential and several animal experiments have provided positive and promising results
(as presented in another section of this report). Clinical trials over the last years have
followed these progresses and brought preliminary results.
Magnesium treatment, repeatedly found beneficial in the past, has been confirmed as
efficient (Attias et al. 2004). Hyperbaric oxygenation was also confirmed as having
protective effects (Winiarski et al. 2005) although some adverse effects have also been
reported depending on conditions of administration. Steroid administration a classical
clinical treatment for NIHL was again recently reported as beneficial (Nakaya et al. 2002,
Winiarski et al. 2005).
Many new drugs with anti-oxidant properties were found protective in animal
experiments, the published clinical trials however do not yet provide fully convincing
evidence (Kaygusuz et al. 2001, Gok et al. 2004, Kramer et al. 2006). New drugs with
anti-apoptotic properties were also shown beneficial in animal experiments, NIHL clinical
therapy is limited at present to one positive report (Suckfuell et al. 2007).
39
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.5.8.
Conclusions
Exposure to excessive noise is one major cause of hearing disorders worldwide. Some
data suggest an increased risk due to increase in use of audio leisure activities. There
seems to be a trend for increased risk due to PMPs, as their qualities improved and they
have become used by a largely increasing proportion of the population. The noiseinduced hearing impairments have received much attention in the past decades mostly
because of hazards of industrial noise exposures. Based upon many scientific studies the
International Standard Organization has published recommendations for health safety. A
most used ISO reference for risk assessment is that an exposure to a sound level of 85
dB (A) for 8 hours a day, 5 days per week will induce in 5% of the exposed population a
hearing loss of about 4 dB after 3 years and 9 dB after 45 years. These losses being
considered as quasi negligible this sound level-duration was considered as a safe limit
above which preventive actions should be taken. The ISO recommendations also express
that, as shown by many studies, the noise-induced hearing loss is the product of sound
level by duration of exposure, and follows the equal energy principle stating that a
decrease of sound level if associated with a proportional increase in duration (for
example a halving in sound level associated with a doubling of exposure duration) induce
similar risks. All data indicate a large inter-individual variability in vulnerability to
excessive sound exposures, some subjects being affected while others are not; up to now
the factors underlying this variability are very poorly known.
In the last decade many new and promising data were obtained concerning the biology of
pathological processes responsible for hearing impairments due to excessive sound
exposures. Excessive noise can induce damage to most cell types in the inner ear, but
presently the sequence of these pathological events and their cause/effect relationships
remain poorly known. Several environmental factors can have detrimental effects, such
as exposure to several chemicals and lowered levels of breathed oxygen which were
found to increase NIHL. The study on involvement of genetic factors has only recently
started and first evidences point to some possible genes and seem to exclude others.
Following the development of molecular biology many new drugs were found to have
protective effects against NIHL in fundamental experiments, these constitute new and
very promising perspectives to prevent and cure NIHL in the future in humans. Although
some few studies have started to assess some new drug treatments in humans much
further research is needed over coming years before definite clinical applications can be
considered.
3.6. Technical aspects of personal music players
3.6.1.
General characteristics
Personal music players have a very wide field of application ranging from professional
tools at the workplace to the leisurely consumer and to children who use these devices as
toys. They are portable digital music players that play music as audio files, such as MP3.
In addition, most of these devices allow to store video, pictures, and to receive radio and
TV programs (podcasting). Earphones and external speakers are the typical output
devices delivering sound to the listener. Personal music players (PMPs) are widely used in
conjunction with several headphones of different styles (insert, supra-aural, vertical, and
circumaural).
To identify the risk levels of PMPs one has to realize that the chain of music reproduction
is organised in stages which are more or less independent of each other but together
affect the output signal level. Personal music players reproduce music from a recording.
The sound of a signal has usually been recorded through a microphone and the
oscillations resulting from the pressure changes are stored as a sampled wave form.
Different procedures and algorithms are used for storing of analogue or digital
40
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
representations of the wave forms which are offering low or high data compression and
provide the means for reconstruction of the original waveform during play-back. The
sound level is not significantly affected by the compression algorithm (if any) and by the
degree of compression used in a particular recording. Often recordings are made by
mixing samples from a number of microphones.
The dynamic range of a recording is generally chosen to fit the technical characteristics of
the storage device (e.g. music cassette tape) and depending on the tone engineer and
the style of the music. Thus, the full dynamic range of a ‘life music’ situation is typically
compressed to a variable degree into the dynamic range available for recording and play
back.
Using the appropriate algorithm, the recorded signal is re-synthesized into a waveform,
typically, in the form of an analogue electronic signal, by the player. Manufacturers of
players usually specify the electronic characteristics of the output (e.g. maximum
voltage, impedance) of their equipment.
To produce sound the player is connected to a transducer: headphones, earphones or
earbuds. Important for our purposes is how effective the transducer is in transforming
voltage into sound energy.
As said above, two matters are important. The electronic coupling of the transducer to
the player may affect the output of the player. This is technically a matter of input and
output impedances and can be described as a coupling factor. The transducer produces a
certain amount of sound energy for a given electronic energy (voltage times current
drain) delivered to the input. This is the sensitivity of the transducer.
The earphones or earbuds are inserted in the ear. The place in the ear canal also
determines the effectiveness of the transfer from transducer to the tympanic membrane.
It seems evident that a circum-aural headphone has to produce more energy than an
earbud inserted in the ear canal, simply because of the larger volume of air that has to
be excited.
3.6.2.
Sound output
The volume of the sound emitted by PMPs varies from manufacturer to manufacturer,
and is difficult to estimate.
With the currently available digital formats (e.g. MP3) of sound recording and
reproduction, it is possible to reach high levels of sound output without distortion. The
personal music players now play not only music, but provide podcasts of various
broadcasts or lecture material, which is delivered largely through ear-bud type insert ear
phones producing a range of maximum levels around 80-115 dB(A) across different
devices. Sound pressure levels change with the insertion depth of the ear-bud in the ear
canal, the maximum output provided by the particular device and ear-bud combination
and the type of music.
Fligor and Cox (2004) tested some devices by different manufacturers and style of
headphones. They found that free-field equivalent sound pressure levels measured at
maximum volume control setting ranged from 91 dB(A) to 121 dB(A). Moreover, they
estimated an influence of 7-9 dB with an ear-bud type producing the highest levels in the
ear canal.
3.6.3.
Conclusions
With the currently available digital formats (e.g. MP3) of sound recording and
reproduction, it is possible to reach high levels of sound output without distortion (around
80-115 dB(A) of maximum levels across different devices) and the difference in earphone type may increase that level. These levels change with the insertion depth of the
41
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
ear-bud in the ear canal, the volume setting of the device, the maximum output provided
by the particular device and ear-bud combination and lastly the type of music. In the
worst case scenario, it is possible to estimate maximum levels of about 120 dB(A).
3.7. PMP usage in the population
In the last decade PMPs have become used by an increasing portion of the population.
The maximal levels of noise produced by the new generation devices are very high and
obviously cause an increased risk of hearing impairment. The factors involved in the
potential risk of hearing loss are noise intensity and duration of exposure at a particular
level. Listening environment, type of headphones / earphones as well as type of music
may play additional roles. This chapter describes the habits of listening to music through
PMPs on a regular basis by teenagers, as well as the availability of PMPs. The data
provided in this chapter are crucial for a risk assessment.
3.7.1.
Listening levels
Several studies are accessible in the literature assessing PMP in terms of maximum
sound pressure level measured in dB SPL or dB(A). Already Katz et al. in 1982 warned
that stereo earphones could deliver acoustic levels up to 120 dB(A) (Katz et al. 1982).
Later in 1985 Lee et al. measured portable headphone cassette radios peak outputs of 90
to 104 dB (Lee et al. 1985).
Rice et al. examined over 60 users of personal cassette players (PCP). They were asked
to set the volume control of a PCP to the level at which they would normally listen to
different types of music. The ranges of measured sound pressure levels were between 60
and 108 dB(A). Mean free-field equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure level
(unobstructed field LAeq) was close to 85 dB LAeq, 25% of the sample experienced levels of
at least 90 dB (A), and 5% had levels above 100 dB(A) (Rice et al. 1987a).
In the study by Wong et al. the equivalent measured music noise levels were of 56 to
116 dB(A) among 394 PMP users (Wong et al. 1990).
In the study by Turunen-Rise et al. published 16 years ago, A-weighted maximum and
equivalent sound pressure levels (SPLs) were measured on KEMAR (Knowles Electronics
Manikin for Acoustic Research) system on five different PCPs while playing selected types
of music and using different gain (volume) settings. The types of music included pop
music, classical music and light classical music. The transformed A-weighted field
equivalent SPLs were on average from 75 to 85 dB(A) only (Turunen-Rise 1991).
In the study by Ising et al. sound levels of music played from mini-cassette players via
headphones were measured in a nonrepresentative group of 681 pupils whose ages were
between 10 to 19 years. They set music levels measure as free field corrected short time
Leq, between 60 dB(A) and 110 dB(A) (Ising et al. 1994).
In a study of social noise in a population sample of representative 18-25 year olds in the
UK Smith et al showed that the level of preferred listening on PMP was 74 dB(A) which
was 72.6% in the low noise category and 80.3% in those with significant social noise
exposure. In the tail of distribution it was found that 6.9% adjusted to levels in excess of
90 dB(A). If adjusting for enjoyment then the average level of adjustment in a quiet
room was 85 dB(A) with a mean of 92 dB(A) in those who had significant social noise
exposure (Smith et al. 2000).
The availability of portable high-performance digital players, with an increased dynamic
range, has facilitated the listening to music at high levels due to reduced distortion at
these levels. Some measurements point to the fact that very high acoustic levels could
be reached (125-127 dB(A)) with a Lequ, 1h of 110 dB(A) (Loth et al. 1992). The study by
Fligor and Cox published in 2004 indicated that for several different styles of
headphones/CD players, free-field equivalent sound pressure levels measured at
42
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
maximum volume control setting ranged from 91 dB(A) to 121 dB(A). Output levels
varied across manufacturers and style of headphone, although generally the smaller the
headphone, the higher the sound level for a given volume control setting. Specifically, in
one manufacturer, insert earphones increased output level by 7-9 dB, relative to the
output from stock headphones included in the purchase of the CD player (Fligor and Cox,
2004).
Based on measured sound pressure levels across systems and the noise dose model
recommended by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health for protecting the
occupational worker, a maximum permissible noise dose would typically be reached
within 1 hr of listening with the volume control set to 70% of maximum gain using supraaural headphones. Using headphones that resulted in boosting the output level (e.g.,
insert earphones used in this study) would significantly decrease the maximum safe
volume control setting; this effect was unpredictable from one manufacturer to another.
According to Fligor and Cox (2004), in the interest to protect the hearing of the majority
of consumers, reasonable guidelines would include a recommendation to limit headphone
use to 1 hr or less per day if using supra-aural style headphones at a gain control setting
of 60% of maximum.
3.7.2.
Listening habits
This chapter addresses the habits of music listening regarding the average sound
pressure level of music and time spent on listening to music through PMPs in an
everyday life. In some of these investigations, individuals were either queried about
subjective level to which they set their volume and time spent on listening to music
through PMP (how loud/how long) or asked to set the level of an equivalent device in the
laboratory setting. In some other studies these measurements were performed in real
world situations, which is a more preferable approach rather than extrapolating the data
from laboratory studies. Several studies are accessible in the literature assessing PMP
sounds in terms of equivalent sound pressure levels and permissible dose of noise. These
studies used various study designs and methods of measuring maximum output levels of
headphones (artificial ear vs KEMAR system). Because there is no standard for
recreational noise, all of them referred equivalent sound pressure levels from music
players to the occupational noise standards (ISO 1999:1990 standard).
In the study by Catalano and Levin (1985) 154 public college students in New York City
were studied via a self-administered questionnaire regarding the volume setting used
and weekly exposure in hours to these units. The values were referred to the “A”
weighted scale for permissible noise dose according to OSHA criteria (OSHA 1983). Of all
students who used such radios 31.4% (41.2% males vs 29.2% females) equalled or
exceeded the maximum allowable dose, with the predominance of males. The mean
weekly exposure time of females was 8 hours (+/- 10 hours/week) while of men it was
almost 14 hours (+/- 10 hours/week). Of the total “at risk” group 50% exceeded the risk
criteria by more than 100%. The authors concluded that portable radios with headphones
may be capable of causing permanent hearing loss in a large proportion of radio users
(Catalano and Levin 1985).
Rice et al. by referring the levels of sound to the listening times, 5% of the sample were
listening in a manner causing that habitual use would constitute a damage risk to
hearing. The authors conclude that there could be some damage to hearing from PCP
devices if habitually used over long period time (Rice et al. 1987a, 1987b). The
shortcoming of this study is that the authors used the admissible daily level of noise of
90 dB LAeq recommended in 80s, while currently it is 80 dB LAeq. Re-evaluating the data it
would increase the population at risk to over 10%.
In another early study Wong et al. assessed the prevalence of use of personal Cassette
Players among youths in a residential community in Hong Kong. They interviewed 487
individuals aged 15-24 years, with 394 (81%) reported using PCP regularly (i.e. for 3
43
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
days or more in a week for at least 6 months). The mean duration of PCP use was 2.8
years, and the mean listening time was 4.5 hours per week (Wong et al. 1990).
In the study by Ising et al. nearly 50% of the total group listened to music less than one
hour per day, and only less than 10% listened for four or more hours (Ising et al. 1994).
Estimating the expected hearing loss (HL) based on ISO 1999 standards, about 10% of
the total group were predicted to have a HL more than 10 dB at 4 kHz after 5 years of
using personal music devices (Ising et al. 1994). The music habits were evaluated in 569
pre-teens and teenagers by the same group of authors (Ising et al. 1995). They
concluded that taking into account only portable music players, one can expect that even
after 5 years of music approximately 5% of the total group would have a hearing loss of
20 dB. Based on their assumptions, the authors suggest that decreasing output level of
PMP devices to 90 dB(A) would minimise the risk of hearing loss (Ising et al. 1995). In a
study by Job et al (2000) it is reported that 39% of young subjects from 18 to 24 years
old went to discos more than twice a month and 17% listened to their personal stereos
(cassette players, CD) more than one hour a day.
A recent report by Bohlin and Erlandsson (2007) examined risk behaviour and loud music
exposure in young 310 adolescents aged 15-20 years. They observed that although
women judged risk situations as generally more dangerous than men but they
nevertheless behave in the same way. Adolescents reporting tinnitus judged loud music
as more risky than those with no symptoms and they did not listen to loud music as with
those with occasional tinnitus. They suggest that hearing protection should acknowledge
and make use of theories on risk behaviour especially due to the existence of a
relationship between adolescents’ risk taking in noisy environments and other types of
risk taking.
3.7.3.
Listening environments
Rice et al. examined over 60 users of personal cassette players (PCP). They were
listening to various music and speech against quiet and noisy backgrounds, in the field
and laboratory conditions. There was no significant difference between listening levels for
the different pieces of music, but there was a significant increase in the mean listening
level from 80.7 dB to 85.1 dB (approximately by 4 dB) in the presence of background
noise (Rice et al. 1987a).
Skrainar et al. 1987 found that users of PMP in occupational noise set levels of 70 to 98
dB(A) with an average of about 87 dB(A) which did not significantly add risk (Skrainar et
al. 1987).
In the study by Williams (2005) measurement was made in a sample of 55 individuals
who were using a PCP as part of their daily activity, when commuting to work, in what
could be considered noisy backgrounds (the worst-case conditions). The average,
A-weighted, eight hour equivalent continuous sound exposure level from PMP in the
worst case condition was determined to be 79.8 dB (80.6 dB in males and 75.3 dB in
females) (Williams, 2005). These sound exposures do not indicate a significant increase
in the risk of potential sound injury from PMP alone for the majority of the user
population. However, there is a subpopulation of individuals who set the volume control
of PMPs very high and/or listen to music through PMPs for long hours a day. In the cited
study of Williams (Williams 2005), 25% of individuals exceeded the limit 85 dB(A) of
noise exposure, while as much as 40% exceeded the level of 80 dB(A).
Recently published study by Hodgetts et al. (2007) indicated that preferred listening
levels were higher with earbud earphones than with over the ear headphones but in a
group of 38 users in quiet or noisy environments levels settings ranged from 70 to 90
dB(A) only (Hodgetts et al. 2007).
44
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.7.4.
Market trends
equipment
and
availability
of
portable
audio
The market surveillance information was obtained for this report from GfK
(http://www.gfk.com/) by MRC Hearing and Communication Group on 14th March 2008.
The data comprised all the Domain Product Groups relating to audited unit sales for
portable audio equipment for the countries Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain,
Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden. The coverage period was for
2004-2007 except for CD players which had data from 2001-2007. The overall coverage
of sales channels was highest in the UK, but very similar market trends were observed
for Europe. The market coverage for UK for MP3 players averaged at 91%, with an
average of 80% overall the selected European countries (which total estimated
population of 357,239,716 in 2007 or about 71% of EU population).
In order to extend these data to the EU countries as a whole two methods were used.
The simple method was to multiply the data up on population basis pro rata. In addition
to that the data were weighted according to internet access penetration in EU countries
(http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/ , data accessed on April 28 2008). These weighted
data could then be used as a broad range with the multiplied up pro rata data to give a
position for Europe.
Figure 3 shows estimated units sales in EU of all portable audio devices and MP3 devices
as a function of estimate procedure over the period 2004–2007. The estimates have
been weighted by each country’s take up of the internet or on a pro rata population
basis. In addition there has either been allowance for the audited data coverage or not
(on an annual basis where available, otherwise on an average basis for that medium).
This figure shows that for all portable audio devices the unit sales were in the range
184-246 million units, while for MP3 devices the units sales were estimated as about 124
million but could be as large as 165 million. This equates at the top end to units sales
equivalent to 1:2 of the population. So, it is assumed that some people buy more than
one device in that time period.
Thousands
Number
All portable audio
MP3
300000
250000
200000
150000
100000
50000
0
www
adjusted
only
www and
coverage
adjusted
pro rata
adjusted
pro rata
and
coverage
adjusted
Coverage and target population
estimation assumptions
using Eurostat data
Figure 3:
Estimated units sales in EU of all portable audio devices and MP3 devices
as a function of estimate procedure over the period 2004–2007, adjusted
for the EU population estimated by EuroStat.
45
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Number (thousands)
50000
40000
30000
20000
10000
0
2004
2005
2006
2007
Year
10 European countries
EU estimate
Figure 4:
The number of unit sales (in thousands) for all portable audio devices for
the ten countries and for the EU, adjusted according to the internet users in each country
as estimated by EuroStat.
The overall number of audio devices sold in the ten countries and in the EU as a whole is
shown in Fig 4. This shows the overall increase in sales in 2005 that has been maintained
in the following two years, with more than 50 million devices being sold per year by
2007. Figure 5 shows that the PMP player sales were responsible for that increase. The
percentage of MP3 players sold as proportion of all portable audio devices has increased
dramatically from over 20% to over 80% in the last three years (from 2004 to 2007),
and in 2007 it consisted of over 30 million unit sales in ten European countries18 (vs of 10
million for CD players at its peak in 2004) (fig. 5).
35000
30000
units
25000
CD
MP3
20000
15000
10000
5000
0
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
year
Figure 5:
Number of unit sales (thousands) in ten European countries for CD and
MP3 devices between 2001 and 2007.
18
Austria, Belgium, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland
46
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
The sales data, not adjusted for coverage, for MP3 players and for all audio devices are
shown in Figure 6. These data show the large increase in unit sales for the MP3 players
over the 4 year period from audited figures and from those estimated for the EU
countries.
Estimated units sold (thousands)
200000
180000
160000
2007
140000
120000
2006
100000
80000
2005
60000
40000
20000
2004
0
All portable audio
MP3 only
Compare MP3 units with all portable audio
Figure 6:
Cumulative numbers of MP3 players and all portable audio equipment (not
adjusted for coverage of audit) in EU (web users adjusted).
Figure 7 shows the proportion of portable audio devices sold in 2004-2007, which
indicates that about 67% of all portable audio devices sold were MP3 players, with 17%
being CD players.
Figure 8 shows the percentage of each portable audio device category sold in 2007 and
the estimated numbers sold in that year. It shows that the percentage of MP3 players
was about 83% in 2007 compared to 67% over the four year time period. Clearly this
proportion of MP3 players will increase over time.
MiniD isc
1%
C D portable
17%
Walkman
4%
Portable
radios
11%
MP3 device
67%
Figure 7:
Percentage of each portable audio device sold in 2004-2007
47
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
11; 0%
2058; 5%
883; 2%
3745; 10%
MiniDisc
CD portable
Walkman
portable radios
MP3 device
31710; 83%
Figure 8:
Percentage of each portable audio device sold in 2007 and the estimated
number of units sold in EU.
In addition to the data on portable audio the increasing importance of the use of mobile
telephone equipment, with high quality audio facilities (very similar if not the same as
MP3 players) was examined. These data are very sensitive to market variations and there
are no data in terms of the exact availability and use of the mobile phones (Gartner
Inc.).
The data suggest that in Q4 of 2007 there were 55 million mobile phone handsets sold in
‘Western Europe’, which on a pro rata basis (about 28% units sales in 2006 and 2007
worldwide) gives a 2007 sales of 192 million. This is equivalent to about 161 million in EU
countries. It is estimated that presently about 10-20% of these phones may have smart
features such as MP3 players. This will increase rapidly so that up to 75% of all phones
sold by 2011 may have features similar to the MP3 players available now on the market.
So in rough terms an estimate might currently be that 16 to 32 million devices (and
hence probably close to that in terms of people) have access to these sorts of emerging
"hi technology" features. Data are not very precise at present and it is not clear at all
whether people who have access to these features actually use them.
Although the data for the portable audio market are accessible, there are no
demographics easily available on these sales, nor any information on how many devices
an individual may buy over a given time period, how long they last before being
discarded and how long and in what situations they are used. Thus, it is hard to estimate
the proportion of the population that has access to portable audio or to MP3 players, and
how many use them on daily basis. However, it may be estimated in a rather
conservative way that in EU a number of daily users of devices like personal music
players and mobile phones with this function could be very high and in the range of
50-100 million.
3.7.5.
Conclusions
The levels of exposure to sounds from PMP range widely from 80 dB(A) to 115 dB(A)
among PMP users, while mean weekly exposure time ranges from below 1 to 14 hours,
and is typically longer for men than for women. The type of music and environment may
influence exposure levels.
48
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
There is a literature evidence that, the average, A-weighted, eight hour equivalent sound
exposures levels from PMPs range between 75 to 85 dB(A). Assuming that music as a
cause of noise-induced hearing loss could be compared with industrial noise, such
exposures produce minimal risk of hearing impairment for the majority of PMP users.
However, a small proportion of users are at a higher risk due to the levels patterns and
duration of their listening preferences. Considering the daily (or weekly) time spent on
listening to music through personal music players and the typical volume control
settings, approximately 5% to 10% of the young listeners are at high risk of developing
permanent hearing loss after 5 or more years of exposure.
The increase in unit sales of portable audio devices mainly MP3 has been phenomenal in
EU over the last four years. Estimated units sales could be in the range 184-246 million
for all portable audio devices and in the range 124-165 million for the MP3. The increase
overall in sales was noted in 2005 and has been maintained in the following years with
more than 50 million devices being sold per year by 2007.
The yearly sales of mobile phones reach a similar number of units. However, at present
the availability of the MP3 functionality is not widespread in these handsets (e.g. may be
ten percent). Its use is even more unknown. So, at present the major risks to hearing, if
use is inappropriate is through portable audio devices, and particularly through the very
large numbers of people using MP3 players.
3.8. Effects of sound from PMP on hearing
Noise pollution remains the most frequent environmental hazard accounting for hearing
loss. Over the last years an increasing exposure to noise has been noted outside
workplace, during recreational/leisure activities. The latter affects not only adults, but
also children and adolescents (Plontke et al. 2004). Personal music players were widely
introduced to the market in 1980s first as cassette players, and in 1990s as CD players.
In the 21st Century, MP3 and currently i-Pods have become very popular. Most PMP users
are teenagers and children. Although the equivalent levels of exposure to noise from
using these devices on regular basis seem to be substantially lower than e.g. from discos
or rock concerts (Serra et al. 2005) they continue to be a concern in the mainstream
media. The question is whether or not loud sounds from personal music players including
mobile phones with a music playing function could raise a potential risk to hearing loss?
This chapter describes the changes in prevalence of hearing loss in young people that
could be attributed to increasing environmental noise exposures, as well as the influence
of listening to the music through PMPs on hearing threshold shift, either temporary or
permanent.
3.8.1.
Changes in prevalence of hearing loss in young people
Majority of epidemiological studies on the hearing, including very recent ones, failed to
prove an increased prevalence of hearing impairment in teenagers and young adults over
the last decades (Strauss et al. 1977, Carter et al. 1982, Persson et al. 1993, Axelsson et
al. 1994, Augustsson and Engstrand 2006, Rabinowitz et al. 2006) or did not find a
correlation between leisure time activities and hearing impairment (Axelsson et al. 1981,
Axelsson 1994, Mostafapour et al. 1998, Tambs et al. 2003). It has been shown that
from 5% to almost 20% of young individuals have audiometric “notches” at 4-6 kHz
consistent with noise exposure, but this rate has remained constant over the last 20
years (Wong et al. 1990, Meyer-Bisch 1996, Niskar et al. 2001, Axelsson et al. 1981,
Axelsson et al. 1994, Peng et al. 2007, Rabinowitz et al. 2006). These studies were
performed in German, Australian, Swedish and American populations where the PMP
were very common.
Three cohort studies reported increasing prevalence of hearing loss in young individuals
over the last 30 years, i.e. during the period when PMP have been extensively used since
the 1980s. Montgomery and Fujikawa reported in 1992 that over a decade second
49
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
graders with hearing loss has increased by 2.8 times, and eighth graders had an increase
of 4 times (Montgomery and Fujikawa, 1992). Danish children starting school in 1977,
1987 and 1997 were evaluated for hearing ability by a review of 1,605 school health
records (Gissel et al. 2002). Higher prevalence of impaired hearing ability in children who
started school in 1987 and 1997 compared to those who started school in 1977 was
found; in addition at the end of school year group 1977 hearing had become as poor as
that of year group 1987. Reduced hearing was typically at high frequencies, indicating to
noise-induced hearing impairment (Gissel et al. 2002).
Boys and girls (aged 14–17 years) were examined during a four-year period.
Audiological, psychosocial, and sound measurements were performed yearly to
determine the hearing threshold level (HTL) of participants in the 250–16.000 Hz range,
their participation in recreational activities, and the sound levels at discos and through
personal music player use. A tendency of the mean HTL to increase in both genders
during the study was observed, especially at 14.000 Hz and 16.000 Hz. Boys had a
higher mean HTL than girls. The participation in musical activities increased yearly,
"attendance at discos" being the favourite musical activity for both groups. In general,
boys were more exposed to high sound levels than girls. In this 4-year longitudinal study
it was concluded that the exposure to high sound levels during leisure activities (but not
necessarily from PMP) could be a cause of permanent hearing damage among young
people with “tender ears” (Biassoni et al. 2005).
Although epidemiological literature data does not support the view that there is widespread hearing loss caused by exposure to amplified music in young people under the
age of 21 years, some authors stress that if the recreational pattern remains the same,
there could be some risk of noise-induced hearing loss by the age of mid-twenties
(Carter et al. 1982). Slight alterations of hearing function have been detected as possible
early signs of ear impairment before deficits were detected with classical audiometry by
frequency selectivity and high definition audiometry (West and Evans 1990, Meyer-Bisch
1996), otoacoustic emissions (LePage and Murray 1998) and very high frequency
audiometry (Peng et al. 2007). However no follow-up data is available for these studies.
3.8.2.
Hearing threshold shift
In the population with increased risk of hearing impairment from personal music players
either temporary hearing threshold shift (TTS) or permanent hearing threshold shift
(PTS) may develop. TTS may result from short (few hours) exposures at the levels near
the maximum output of the music device. PTS may result from repeated exposures (over
years) to moderate sound levels exceeding allowable dose of noise.
3.8.2.1. Temporary threshold shift (TTS)
Only few studies have been published on temporary hearing threshold shift due to music
sounds from personal music players. They were mainly laboratory investigations on the
healthy volunteers overexposed to sounds.
In a pilot study by Lee et al. 16 volunteers listened to headphone sets for 3 hours at their
usual maximum level. Six of them showed TTS of 10 dB at one or more audiometric
frequencies, and one volunteer showed a TTS of approximately 30 dB at 4 kHz. These
shifts returned to normal within 24 hours in all individuals. The average post-test music
sound level ranged from 94 to 104 dB SPL (Lee et al. 1985).
In the study by Turunen-Rise et al. the TTS was measured in 6 volunteers with normal
hearing (3 males and 3 females aged 23-40 years). They were exposed for 1h to pop
music (that generated the highest noise level among all types of music tested) at the
gain setting of 8 on the scale. Corresponding field levels of music sound ranged from 85
to 95 dB(A). A small notch at 4 kHz (2-3 dB on average, no more than 15 dB) was
observed after exposure to pop music with moderate use of percussion instruments,
while significantly more TTS was observed with the pop music extensively using
percussion instruments. The highest exposures produced greatest TTS. Hearing
50
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
impairment recovered completely within 20-40 min. for the majority of subjects
(Turunen-Rise et al. 1991).
In the study by Loth et al (1992), 12 volunteers listened to two recordings (classical
music and hard rock) at an acoustic level complying with safety regulation. TTS at 4 and
6 kHz were measures just after exposure and it was, on the average 5 dB. No difference
between frequencies and type of music was found.
3.8.2.2. Permanent threshold shift (PTS)
Permanent threshold shift that could be related to music players was investigated by
several authors in the field studies designs. Both, positive and negative findings were
published.
The first study evaluating the potentially harmful effects of amplified music on young
people’s hearing was published in early 80’s of 20th Century, and failed to prove hearing
impairment (Carter et al. 1982).
In their study Wong et al. (1990) assessed the prevalence of use of personal cassette
players among youths in a residential community in Hong Kong. They interviewed 487
individuals aged 15-24 years, with 394 (81%) reported using PCP regularly (i.e. for 3
days or more in a week for at least 6 months). The mean duration of PCP use was 2.8
years, and the mean listening time was 4.5 hours per week. Among the 78 PCP users and
25 non-users examined with pure-tone audiometry, no significant difference in the mean
hearing threshold was observed for the frequencies tested (250–8000 Hz). However in
the studied group, only four subjects were habitually exposed to sound levels higher than
85 dB(A). One was exposed to 116 dB(A) and was found to have a 4000 Hz dip on his
audiogram. The authors conclude that despite the high prevalence of PCP use, most
youths used their PCP at relatively safe sound levels with low risk of hearing loss (Wong
et al. 1990).
Similar results were obtained by Kawada et al in 1990 and West et al. (1990). In the first
study no significant differences between mean hearing acuity between PMP users and
non-users were found in 155 medical students aged between 22-29 years. However, the
mean hearing acuity at 4 kHz showed a tendency of being lower in users than non-users,
and higher percent of individuals with hearing impairment was found in the user group as
compared to the control. The authors suggest that 10% of the young generation is at risk
for permanent hearing loss from use of portable music players (Kawada et al. 1990). In
the second paper, sixty subjects in the 15-23 age range were examined. While the most
exposed groups did not show significantly greater averaged thresholds, there was a
significantly increased prevalence of notches in the 3.5-6 kHz audiograms of the older
age group (West, 1990).
The concern about safety of PMPs arose after publication of the study by Meyer-Bisch
(1996). The investigation involved young people 14-18 years who were just discovering
music played loudly. Three subgroups were defined for users of personal cassette
players: occasional, 2-7 h/week and >7 h/week. High definition audiometry (449
frequencies over the spectrum from 125 to 16000 Hz) was applied and early warning
indicator (EWI) was calculated from the arithmetic average of the thresholds at 3, 4 and
6 kHz. The groups were matched according to disco attendance, PCP use and concert
attendance. PCP users were defined as those who never or only occasionally go to
rock/variety concerts or discotheques, but who use a PCP for at least 2 h/week. In total
249 individuals from 14-30 years of age (mean 17.7) were assessed including 54
individuals (21.7%) with the use of a PMPs for at least 8 h/week (majority of them were
15-16 years old subgroup). A statistically significant increase of average hearing
thresholds was found in people using PMPs > 7 h/week (54 subjects) as compared to
those using PCP 2–7 h/week (195 subjects) and as compared to their matched control.
The differences were significant at the range of frequencies from 2 to 12 kHz. From the
same study of Meyer-Bisch, it could be concluded that only the individuals with high rate
of using PMPs (more than 7 h/week) develop significant permanent threshold shift. On
51
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
the other hand, subjective auditory suffering signs (tinnitus, hearing fatigue) were found
to be three times more frequent in the PMPs listeners group than in PMPs non-users,
suggesting that may be pure-tone audiometry is not the most sensitive method of
discovering subclinical or early damage to the cochlea.
More sensitive approach to detect subtle changes in hearing due to exposure to noise is
to assess otoacoustic emissions (OAEs). OAEs are thought to be affected early, before
clinical signs appear (LePage and Murray 1998, Mansfield et al. 1999, Rosanowski 2006,
Shupak et al. 2007), and are simpler to record, thus offering a possible monitoring and
educational tool.
In 1998 LePage and Murray applied transient-evoked otoacoustic emission (TEOAE) to
assess the effects of personal stereo systems on hearing. Usable records were obtained
from 1724 people (1066 males and 658 females) aged between 10 and 59. The level of
TEOAE was significantly lower in PMPs users than non-users, although only small
proportion (39 people) of PMPs users admitted any hearing problems. For the teenage
range (10-19 years) there was no significant difference between non-users, those who
used PMPs below 1 hour per week and those who wear PMPs from 1 hour to 6 hours a
week. However, for the group of people aged 20-29 and more both users groups was
significantly different from non-users group. The authors conclude that the decline in
otoacoustic emission strength forewarns premature hearing loss in PMPs. They also
suggest that hearing impairment from PMPs music occurs only in the late-teenage and
early-adult period (LePage and Murray, 1998). While interpreting the data of LePage and
Murray, one should conclude that preclinical phase of hearing loss and relatively short
length of time of exposure prior to hearing evaluation (early teen-age) are probably two
factors justifying why some previous studies failed to observe any effect of music on
hearing.
The other methods of early detection of NIHL applied to occupational noise-exposed
population include extended high frequency audiometry and Bekesy audiometry. The
studies that used these tools in PMP users were positive. Dieroff et al (Dieroff et al. 1991,
Peng et al. 2007) examined 181 persons aged between 16 and 18. The group of
individuals using PMP often revealed a significant change in hearing threshold at the
audiometric frequencies above 8 kHz; it was also true for the disco attending population.
Early elevation in thresholds was also better detected by high resolution Bekesy tracking
than by conventional fixed-frequency audiometry in the group of sixty subjects in the 1523 age range examined by West et al. (West et al. 1990).
More recently published studies are again equivocal. In a prospective auditory testing of
fifty college volunteers with retrospective history of exposure to recreational noise, no
difference in pure-tone threshold, speech reception threshold or speech discrimination
was found among subjects when segregated by noise exposure (Mostafapour et al.
1998). No significant effects of frequent use of personal music players or regular
attendance at disco and rock concerts was also demonstrated in the Norway survey of
51,975 adult participants performed in 1995-1997 (Tambs et al. 2003). Similar results
were obtained in a subcohort of 358 young (18 year old) adults with a history of otitis
media; use of PMPs had no effect on hearing (de Beer et al. 2003). On the other hand,
based on audiometric testing of 120 personal music players users and 30 normal-hearing
young adults it was revealed that hearing thresholds in the 3 to 8 kHz frequency range
were significantly poorer in the group using PMPs (Peng et al. 2007). Also, in some of the
PMPs users, the hearing thresholds were worse with high-frequency audiometry even if
their hearing thresholds in conventional frequency audiometry were normal (Peng et al.
2007).
3.8.3.
Speech comprehension impairment
In the only study on fifty college volunteers with retrospective history of exposure to
recreational noise, no differences in speech reception threshold and speech discrimination
52
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
was found among individuals when segregated by noise exposure (Mostafapour et al.
1998).
3.8.4.
Tinnitus
There are numerous reports of high levels of music-induced tinnitus in young people
(Holgers et al. 2005, Chung et al. 2005, Axelsson et al. 2000, Davis et al. 1998, Widén
and Erlandsson 2004, Rosanowski 2006). However, only three studies compared the rate
of subjective complaints of hearing problems and tinnitus in PMPs users. Two studies
were positive showing that these signs were more frequent in walkman users (Becher
1996, Meyer-Bisch 1996). In the study by Meyer-Bisch auditory suffering (AS) was
assessed using two subjective parameters – presence of tinnitus (even temporary)
and/or hearing fatigue. Auditory suffering was two times significantly more frequent in
PCP users (2–7 h/week) than in matched control group. Such difference was not
confirmed in those using PCP > 7 h/week, although in PCP group twice as many
individuals had some complaints relative to the control group (Meyer-Bisch 1996). In the
more recent investigation no correlation between the exposure to PMP and self-reported
hearing loss and/or incidence of tinnitus was found (Williams 2005).
3.8.5.
Risk associated with pop concerts and discotheques
The data from these studies are presented here since the acoustic levels of exposure are
quite similar to those that could be achieved with PMP. However, the sounds being
delivered in free field are subject to many more fluctuations as exact position of the ears
from the sound sources changes whereas for PMPs no such fluctuations of position from
sound sources occur.
In 1977 and 1978 Axelsson and Lindgren published a review of previous studies (5
reports from 1967 to 1974) which indicated that on a total of 160 pop musicians
examined only 5 were found to have a hearing loss. They also reported their own
observations on 83 pop musicians exposed on average for about 9 years 18 hours a week
to levels of up to 115 dB(A); small hearing losses were observed in 13-30% of the
subjects depending on the definition of hearing loss; the authors concluded that the risk
of NIHL was very small. These authors also indicated that after two hours of pop music
pop musicians exhibited TTS for levels starting at 98 dB(A) whereas normal listeners
started to have TTS for a level of 92 dB(A), this difference seeming only partly
explainable by the original slight elevation of hearing of pop musicians (Axelsson and
Lindgren 1978b). Irion (1981) described one case of acute bilateral hearing loss while
attending a pop concert followed by almost complete recovery within a few days, this
exceptional vulnerability was attributed to genetic predisposition.
Two epidemiologic surveys were reported by Babisch and Ising (1989), one on 204 the
other on 3133 young people, showed that those with some hearing loss indicated on
average more time spent in discotheques. Such a relation was later confirmed by Dieroff
et al. in 1991, within a group of 181 persons (Dieroff et al. 1991). Those who went more
than three times a month to discos showed on average a slightly greater loss at very
high frequencies. In 1992 Drake-Lee measured TTS in a group of four pop musicians
after a concert in which levels could be up to 135 dB(A), with less TTS for those who
wore ear defenders. In 1996 Liebel et al. observed TTS of up to 10 dB on average after 2
hours of attendance to a discotheque for two hours at an average level of 105 dB(A).
Meyer-Bisch (1996) states that although 211 discotheques patrons did not show
audiometric damage, people having gone to rock concerts at least twice a month
exhibited some hearing losses. Metternich and Brusis (1999) examined 24 patients
consulting after musical acoustic trauma, in two thirds of the patients the hearing loss
occurred after a one-time exposure to a pop concert, in the other third the loss occurred
after repeated attendances to discotheques or parties, five patients reported tinnitus. In
a study on 46 employees in discotheques with at least 89 dB(A) average acoustic level,
Lee (1999) observed a higher prevalence of hearing loss and tinnitus as compared to a
control group. Sadhra et al. (2002) report on 14 students working in entertainment
53
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
venues exposed to more than 90 dB(A) and up to peak levels of 124 dB(A), small but
significant TTS was observed. In a study by Bray et al. (2004) on 23 dance music disk
jockeys three exhibited dip losses of NIHL type in their audiogram and sixteen reported
TTS and tinnitus after job sessions. Among eighty-eight young adults with normal
hearing and no tinnitus Rosanowski et al. (2006) indicated about 20% reporting tinnitus
after visiting a disco and about 50% reporting a transient hearing loss. Schmuziger et al.
(2006) examined 42 non professional pop/rock musicians exposed for at least five years
and compared with a control group of 20 non exposed matched subjects, on average a
small but significant hearing loss was found in pop/rock musicians, eleven of the
musicians were hypersensitive to loud sounds and seven reported tinnitus. Stormer and
Stenklev (2007) reviewed seven publications on pop musicians emphasising prevalence
of permanent hearing loss, tinnitus hyperacusis and increased resistance to loud music.
Finally Schmuziger et al. (2007) indicate in 16 non professional rock/pop musicians a TTS
after rehearsal of 90 minutes at a mean acoustic level of 103 dB(A), the TTS affected
usual audiometric frequencies while surprisingly very high frequencies were not affected.
Meecham and Hume (2001) questioned 545 students attending night clubs and showed a
significant association between attendance at night clubs and duration of post-exposure
tinnitus. Non-attendees were significantly less likely to get spontaneous tinnitus.
Overall the data concerning NIHL, associated with pop concerts and discotheques,
presents some analogies with those presented above for PMPs. The range of acoustic
levels of exposure is can go higher, however the duration and number of times of
exposures is smaller. Short term studies clearly demonstrate reversible hearing losses
after exposures. The studies started about 30 years ago so that rather long-term data
are now available and there is no clear evidence that prevalence of NIHL linked to pop
concerts has increased significantly over the last 30 years.
3.8.6.
Risk associated with classical orchestral music
In classical orchestras sound levels are on average considerably less than in pop concerts
but in some music pieces may also be quite high for long durations and thus musicians
appear to be also at some risk of NIHL. A few studies only have dealt with assessment of
this risk. Westmore and Everdsen (1981) found slight hearing losses of the notched NIHL
type in about a third of 68 musicians, acoustic recordings during rehearsals revealed
levels in excess of 90 dB(A) in only 4 hours out of a total of 14 hours. Johnson et al.
(1986) tested 60 orchestral musicians in comparison with matched non musicians and
they found no difference in hearing sensitivity even at very high frequencies. In contrast
Ostri et al. (1989) tested 95 orchestral musicians and found hearing losses in 58% of
them in the form of a NIHL type notched audiogram. McBride et al. (1992) did not find
clear evidence for NIHL in 36 musicians. Assessment of hearing in 62 choir singers
indicated some hearing losses mostly at low frequencies in contrast with the usual
pattern of NIHL. From audiometric testing of 140 classical orchestral musicians Kahari et
al. (2001) did not find clear evidence for NIHL related hearing losses. Laitinen et al.
(2003) measured sound levels for a variety of instrument players and playing conditions,
during performances individual exposure levels could be 95 dB(A) while at rehearsals
levels could be 100 dB(A).
These studies indicate that for classical musicians involved in classical music acoustic
levels of exposure exceed occasionally risk thresholds, but there is no undisputable
evidence for an associated NIHL.
3.8.7.
Conclusions
It seems that the majority of young users of personal listening devices are at low risk for
a substantial NIHL.
The risk of permanent sensorineural hearing loss arises from repeated, regular daily
exposures to high sound levels.
54
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
Excessive acute exposures to PMPs music at maximal or near maximal output volume can
produce reversible hearing impairment (temporary threshold shift) up to 30 dB at 4 kHz
in some individuals after short time (one or more hours) of exposure. However, the risk
of hearing loss and tinnitus is much smaller compared to pop concerts and discotheques
music exposures.
There are major discrepancies between the results of the studies on permanent NIHL in
PMP users. They could arise from different study designs and methodology. Most of these
studies showed none or only small permanent effect of using PMP on hearing in the
majority of users, if short term consequences were assessed with audiometric hearing
threshold. A lack of long-term studies and with using more sensitive hearing outcomes,
like for example otoacoustic emissions makes it difficult to conclude whether the
exposure to PMP music in teenage may influences hearing in older age.
Overall the data concerning NIHL, associated with pop concerts and discotheques,
presents some analogies with those presented above for PMPs. The range of acoustic
levels of exposure can go higher, however the duration and number of times of
exposures is smaller. Short term studies clearly demonstrate reversible hearing losses
after exposures.
Studies for classical musicians indicate that their level of exposure occasionally exceed
risk threshold, but there is no undisputable evidence for an associated NIHL.
3.9. Non-auditory effects
The non-auditory effects of noise on children and adolescents basically fall into two
categories. (1) At the psychological level, seen as changes in reading, memory,
attention, school achievement, and motivation and (2) other effects, mainly those who
show up at biological or physiological level.
3.9.1.
Psychological effects
Pertaining to the psychological effects on cognition and attention, there is no reported
research on noise from PMPs. However there are reliable findings of the noise effects
from other noise sources on cognition and attention in children and young adults. Thus,
to consider possible outcomes of PMP-use it is worthwhile to briefly summarize relevant
research, coming mainly from studies of aircraft and road-traffic noise.
3.9.1.1. Reading and memory
The best documented impact of noise on children's performance is research showing
negative effects on reading acquisition. Close to twenty studies have found indications of
negative relations between chronic noise exposure and delayed reading acquisition in
young children (Evans and Lepore 1993). There are no contradictory findings and the few
null results are likely due to methodological problems, such as comparing children across
school districts who have different reading curricula (Cohen et al. 1986).
There are fewer studies of other cognitive processes and noise among children relative to
reading. However, noise effects on memory have been the focus of a handful of studies.
The most ubiquitous memory effects occur in chronic noise, particularly when complex,
semantic materials are probed (Hygge 2003). Several studies of both chronic (Evans et
al. 1995, Haines et al. 2001a, Hygge et al. 2002) and acute noise (Boman 2004, Boman
et al. 2005, Hygge 2003, Hygge et al. 2003) have found adverse impacts of aircraft or
road traffic noise exposure on long term memory for complex, difficult material.
Stansfeld et al. (2005) replicated these effects on long term memory for chronic aircraft
noise.
In the experimental acute noise studies by Boman (2004), Hygge (2003), Hygge et al.
(2003) worse (approx. 15-20 %) long-term learning and memory in children was induced
55
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
by exposure to aircraft and road-traffic noise and speech noise at 66 dB(A) Lequ during 15
min exposure time while reading a text and tested for memory of the text an hour later
or a week later. For aircraft noise there was impaired memory also from 15 min exposure
to 55 dB(A) Lequ.
For chronic aircraft noise exposure the Munich study (Hygge et al. 2002) and the RANCH
study (Stansfeld et al. 2005) indicated that children exposed to chronic aircraft noise
showed cognitive deficits compared to children not having been exposed to chronic
aircraft noise. It was also found that the children at the old airport in Munich, who got rid
of aircraft noise, improved their cognitive performance. Thus, there was some
reversibility in the negative effects of noise on cognition when the noise ceased. To what
extent this recovery is dependent upon the age of the children in question (11-12 years)
and the accompanying continuing growth in cognitive development, we do not know.
Thus, short time exposure (15 min) to noise with average levels of 65 dB(A), impairs
memory and learning. Long-time chronic exposure to, at least aircraft noise, indicate that
there will be statistically significant impairments of memory and language skills when the
noise levels increase from around or below 55 to above 60 dB(A) Lequ.
3.9.1.2. Attention and distraction
Use of music is sometimes employed to distract from a noisy working environment, and
sometimes this is beneficial. One reason for this to happen is that the more boring,
repetitive and simple a task is, the more will it benefit, both in quality and quantity, from
being performed in noise (Kryter 1994). On the other hand, the more complex and
difficult the task is, the more it is prone to be hampered by excessive sounds.
When the noise is preferred music from PMP one would in addition expect more of a
perceived comfort. Further, when the music from the PMP also masks distracting sounds
in the environment, devoid of relevant information or warning characteristics, it will most
likely be a subjective advantage to listen to the PMP rather than to shut it off. On the
other hand, the more cognitively demanding the task is, the more it is dependent upon
speech communication, and the more there are of potential warning sounds in the close
environment, the more to the disadvantage of the task performance and the security of
the listener the PMP-listening is.
With regard to attention, there is always a risk that the sound of the music listened to
from the PMP will acoustically mask warning sounds e.g. from approaching cars, street
crossings or reversing trucks. Even if the music is not in a physical sense masking the
warning sound, the focused attention on the music will from time to time make the
listener inattentive to other sounds, some of which my be warning sounds.
3.9.1.3. School performance
There are a several cross-sectional studies that have reported a covariation between high
noise levels (from aircraft or road traffic) and low grades or low levels of school
achievement (Cohen et al. 1981, Cohen et al. 1986, Green et al. 1982, Evans and
Maxwell 1997, Haines et al. 2001a, Haines et al. 2001b, Haines et al. 2001c, Haines et
al. 2002, Maser et al. 1978, Stansfeld et al. 2005). However, cross-sectional studies
suffer from two possible short-comings. The first is the differential socio-demographic
composition of the noise dose groups, which may favour children in quiet middle-class
housing and living areas. Adjusting statistically for the social class effects may not be
sufficient to control for this. The second is the possible confound between being exposed
to noise both while learning and when tested for what is learnt. Noise at testing may
lower the test scores without learning being effected, but the effects of noise on learning
and performing can not be disentangled. Thus, cross-sectional studies are not the best
platform for a strong inference on cause-effect relationships.
56
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.9.1.4. Motivation
One laboratory study (Glass 1977) and several field studies (Bullinger et al. 1999, Cohen
et al. 1986, Evans et al. 1995, Maxwell and Evans 2000) have found that children
chronically exposed to noise are less motivated when placed in achievement situations
where task performance is contingent upon persistence. Cohen et al. (1986) also found
that a second index of motivation, abrogation of choice, was affected by chronic noise
exposure. Children chronically exposed to noise, following a set of experimental
procedures in quiet conditions, were more apt to relinquish choice over a reward to an
experimenter, in comparison to their well matched quiet counterparts. Haines et al.
(2001a) could not replicate the effects of aircraft noise on puzzle persistence in
elementary school children although they administered the task in small groups rather
than individually.
Perceived control is at the heart of the theorising about noise after-effects. When the
noise exposed person perceives that (s)he has control over the noise exposure or noise
source, the motivational after effects vanish. Thus, we can not really expect that the
persons that freely expose themselves to music from PMPs will lose any motivation just
because of that.
3.9.1.5. Lasting after effects on cognition from listening
to PMPs
No directly relevant study of lasting after effects (effects that last also after the cessation
of noise exposrue) of listenting to PMP on memory, learning, attention or other facets of
cognition has been located in the international research literature. Studies of lasting
cognitive effects from involuntary exposure to chronic aircraft and road traffic noise
(Hygge et al. 2002, Stansfeld et al. 2005) have indicated impaired memory and learning
with an increased noise level. It is questionable though whether those studies validly can
be stretched to make any inference about voluntary, non-chronic exposure to music. And
even if the studies of chronic noise and cognition in some ways are applicable to PMPlistening, they can not state in any detail how long (years) the chronic noise must be
present to result in impaired cognition, and whether this cognitive impairment will be
permanent or not. For instance, in a study around the Munich airport (Hygge et al. 2002)
children chronically exposed to noise at the old airport, and lagging behind their silent
control group on memory and language performance, recovered from their deficits within
18 months after the airport was closed down.
Thus, there does not seem to be sufficient research on PMPs to conclude anything about
long lasting effects on cognition, and the available evidence from research on other noise
sources is not detailed enough to give any strong indications about exposure duration
and permanence of cognitive deficits.
3.9.2.
Other Effects
The obvious beneficial effect of listening to PMPs is indulging in a preferred activity,
which is also the intended outcome. As long as this activity does not interfere with
intended or required task performance, there should be no need to restrict listening to
PMPs.
3.9.2.1. Sleep
Although there is not much of relevant research, the little research there is point to
children having somewhat better sleep than adults. Lukas (1972) stated that children are
not as easily awakened by noises adults are. Öhrström et al. (2006) compared children
aged 9-12 years with their parents in a road traffic study and reported that for parents
there was a significant exposure-effect between noise and several self reported sleep
parameters, but this relationship was less marked for children.
57
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
3.9.2.2. Cardiovascular and other physiological effects
Twelve studies found some association between increased blood pressure and noiseinduced hearing loss (Pyykkö et al. 1981, Lang et al. 1986, Pyykkö et al. 1987, Verbeek
et al. 1987, Milković-Kraus 1990, Talbott et al. 1990, Solerte et al. 1991, Starck et al.
1999, Souto Souza et al. 2001, Toppila et al. 2001, Narlawar et al. 2006, Ni et al. 2007).
In contrast eleven other studies did not find such an association (Lees RE, Roberts JH.
1979, Willson et al. 1979, Ickes and Nader 1982, Kent et al. 1986, Gold et al. 1989,
Kontosić et al. 1990, Tarter and Robins 1990, Hirai et al. 1991, Garcia and Garcia 1993,
Zamarro et al. 1992, Barberino 1995). Overall both groups of positive and negative
studies are quite comparable in sampling and other methodologies. It must be noted
however that the positive findings report moderate average differences sometimes
restricted within studies to sub-groups such as only the more exposed or the youngers or
those who also smoked showing altered blood pressure. The question of causality
remains open, the cardiovascular differences having been simply observed as
concommittant. Two studies (Tomanek 1975, Dengerink et al. 1982) produced
experimental temporary threshold shifts which were found related with
altered
cardiovascular parameters, however physiological processes underlying temporary and
permanent threshold shifts are known to be notably different. A recent extensive review
by Babisch (2006) dealing specifically with exposure to road or aircraft noise on blood
pressure, hypertension and ischaemic heart disease concludes that there is no clear
evidence of increased blood pressure. Whereas for aircraft noise (but not road noise
exposure) most recent studies (Babisch 2006) indicate some significant relationship,
finally concerning ischeamic heart disease more recent studies also suggest a trend
towards increased risk as compared with previous studies.
3.9.3.
Conclusions
Exposing oneself to music from a PMP is a matter of a personal choice of leisure activity.
Harmful lasting and irreversible non-auditory effects of excessive listening to PMP can be
expected in three areas: (1) Cardiovascular effects, (2) cognition and (3) distraction and
masking effects. Cardiovascular effects, in particular increases in blood pressure, build up
and accumulate over time, when there is not enough silent time in between noise
exposures to recover. However, we do not have sufficient evidence to state that music
from PMPs constitutes a risk for hypertension and ischaemic heart disease in children and
young adults.
Effects on cognition (memory and learning) of excessive sound exposure has been shown
from acute noise exposure and from chronic noise exposure. Noise exposure for 15 min
to 66 dB(A), and for aircraft noise down to 55 dB(A) has been shown to cause impaired
learning and memory of a text. We have no study stating that the same is true also for
music, but we also have no reason to believe that music should be substantially less
harmful to cognition that aircraft noise, road traffic noise or speech noise. Thus, listening
to music from PMP while at the same time trying to read a text and learn from it, will
hamper memory and learning. This learning impairment has been shown at fairly short
(15 min) exposure times and at sound levels that are moderate (55-65 dB(A)).
Prolonged exposure to chronic aircraft noise has been shown to impair cognition in
children, but there is also one indication that children may recover from the noise
induced cognitive deficit when the noise exposure stops.
We do not as yet have a sufficient scientific basis to assume that excessive voluntary
PMP-listening leads to lasting and irreversible cognitive and attention deficits after the
cessation of the noise.
58
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
4. OPINION
The SCENIHR was asked to assess, in the light of current scientific data and knowledge:
1. Whether the exposure to noise19 from devices like personal music players and
mobile phones with this function, at levels corresponding to current permissible
noise emissions may cause quantifiable health risks, in particular hearing loss
and/or hearing impairment to the user, and to specify the relevant outcomes;
2. In case health risks are identified, the SCENIHR is asked:
a. to identify the level of noise emission safeguarding the health of citizens,
taking into account the intensity, length and number of exposures to users
of personal music players and mobile phones with the same function and
b. to identify priority issues for further research.
Background
The increase in unit sales of portable music players (PMP) including MP3 playback
function has been phenomenal since their introduction in the EU around four years ago.
Estimated units sales range between 184-246 million for all portable audio devices and
range between 124-165 million for MP3 players. There was a marked increase in overall
portable audio devices sales in 2005 and sales were maintained in the following years
with more than 50 million devices being sold per year by 2007. Mobile phones are sold
by similar numbers of units every year. However, at present the availability of the MP3
functionality is not widespread in these handsets (maybe ten percent) while their
frequency of use remains as yet unknown.
Although the data for the portable audio market are accessible, there are no
demographics easily available on these sales, nor any information on how many devices
an individual may buy over a given time period, how long they last before being
discarded and how long and in what situations they are used. Thus, it is hard to estimate
the proportion of the population that has access to portable audio or to MP3 players, and
how many use them on daily basis. However, it may be estimated on rather conservative
way that in EU the number of users of devices like personal music players and mobile
phones with this function, are in tens of millions daily.
The digital formats of sound recording and reproduction currently available (e.g. MP3)
make it possible to reach high levels of sound output with virtually no distortion, that
could possibly cause a risk to human hearing originating from the inappropriate use of
portable music players.
As shown by many studies, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a function of sound level
and duration of exposure. The fundamental unit of noise exposure measurement is Aweighted decibel [dB(A)]. This unit corresponds well with the physiological sensitivity of
human ear and it has been generally adopted in scientific literature.
Noise at Work Regulations (Directive 2003/10/EC, came into force in 2006) establish a
minimal action level of hearing protection to the limit of 80 dB(A) for an 8 hour working
day (or 40 hour working week) assuming that below this level the risk to hearing is
negligible. The exposure to sound at the level exceeding 80 dB(A) is considered a risk if it
continues at that level for 8 hours a day, five days a week for tens of years. The 8-hour
equivalent level (Lequ, 8h) is a widely used measure for the risk of hearing damage in
industry. On the basis of equal energy, level and time of exposure may be traded with
19
Please note that throughout this opinion, the term ‘noise’ is used consistently in the context of all disease and
malfunction patterns, while the word ‘sound’ is used consequently to clarify that the concern is the
voluntary listener of personal music players and not the observer of the listening situation. For details see
paragraph 3.3.1
59
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
halving of time of exposure with every doubling in level (+3dB). Using the equal energy
basis it may be deduced that the exposure to 80 dB(A) for 40 hours would be equivalent
to the exposure to 83 dB(A) for 20 hours and 89 dB(A) for 5 hours per week. However,
because the model was built on the basis of tens of years of exposure, such calculation
for exposures of short length should be interpreted with caution.
Although all the above regulations and limits apply to the workplace, the fact that they
rely on the exposure level and duration means that they can equally be applied to other
situations where sound has a detrimental effect such as that from personal music players
(PMPs); whether use in workplace, or under leisure situations.
The free-field equivalent sound pressure levels measured at maximum volume control
setting of PMPs range around 80-115 dB(A), across different devices. Differences
between different types of ear-phones may modify the level by up to 7-9 dB. In the
worst case scenario, it is possible to estimate maximum levels of about 120 dB(A). The
hazard to hearing from listening to the music at such levels might be extremely high, as
it is considered that levels exceeding 80 dB(A) may pose a risk.
Question 1:
SCENIHR is asked whether the exposure to noise from devices like personal music
players and mobile phones with this function, at levels corresponding to current
permissible noise emissions may cause quantifiable health risks, in particular hearing loss
and/or hearing impairment to the user, and to specify the relevant outcome.
Answer:
It is estimated that the number of young people with social noise exposure has tripled (to
around 19%) since the early 1980s, whilst occupational noise has decreased. It should
be recognised that exposure to different types of noise and sounds can have cumulative
effects in hearing impairment.
There is evidence in the scientific literature that the levels of exposure to sounds from
using PMP on regular basis range widely from 60 dB(A) to 120 dB(A) among PMP users,
but a vast majority of listeners use it at a level below 80-85 dB(A). The type of music
and environment may influence exposure levels. The mean weekly exposure time spent
on listening to music ranges from below 1 to 14 hours, and is typically longer for men
than for women. It has been estimated that the average, A-weighted, eight hour
equivalent sound exposures levels (referred to “Noise at Work Regulations”) from PMPs
range from 75 to 85 dB(A), producing minimal risk of hearing impairment for the
majority of PMP users.
However, a certain proportion of users are at a higher risk due to the levels, patterns and
duration of their listening preferences. Considering the daily (or weekly) time spent on
listening to music through personal music players and the typical volume control
settings, approximately 5% to 10% of the listeners are at risk of developing permanent
hearing loss after 5 or more years of exposure – the best estimate available on the
limited data (which may be an underestimate based on unpublished information)
suggests that this may be between 2.5 and 10 million people in EU. Those are the
individuals listening to music over 1 hour a day at high volume control setting.
Literature data indicate that the consequences of prolonged exposure to loud sounds
from the PMPs may possibly result in:
•
TTS: Temporary (hearing) threshold shift
•
PTS: Permanent (hearing) threshold shift
•
Tinnitus: Ringing in the Ears
•
Poor Speech Communication in Noisy Conditions
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Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
•
Change in behaviour with the environment (pedestrian/driving behaviour while
listening, acoustic isolation during use)
•
Non-auditory effects
It has been shown that acute exposure to music listened through PMPs at the level
between 94-104 dB of sound pressure level (dB SPL) leads to around 10dB of temporary
threshold shift, but in sensitive individuals may cause up to 30dB shift. Although the data
are very limited they confirm that reversible hearing impairment may occur in some
individuals. Clearly 30 dB temporary threshold shift could affect performance on
listening-sensitive tasks such as driving or communicating.
There are major discrepancies between the results of the studies on permanent noiseinduced hearing loss (NIHL) in PMP users. Both, positive and negative studies have been
published. The discrepancies could arise from different study designs and methodology.
Most of these studies showed none or only small permanent effect of using PMP on
hearing in the majority of users, if short term consequences were assessed with
audiometric hearing threshold. It is difficult to conclude with the available data whether
the exposure to PMP music in teenage may influence hearing in older age. This is due to
a lack of long-term studies using sensitive measures of hearing impairment.
A few studies indicate that tinnitus and hearing fatigue occur more frequently in
teenagers exposed to music, including PMP users, than in those unexposed.
Harmful, lasting and irreversible non-auditory effects of excessive listening to PMP can be
expected in three areas: (1) cardiovascular effects, (2) cognition and (3) distraction and
masking effects. It was shown that noise exposure to 66 dB(A) for 15 min, and down to
55 dB(A) for aircraft noise may cause impaired learning and memory of a text, and we
assume the same to be true for music from PMPs.
Prolonged exposure to chronic aircraft noise has been shown to impair cognition in
children, but there is also one indication that children may recover from the noise
induced cognitive deficit when the noise exposure stops. To what extent this recovery is
dependent upon the age of the children in question and the accompanying general
growth in cognitive development, we do not know. Thus, we can not say with any
precision across age groups how long a noise induced cognitive deficit will last when the
noise exposure has ceased.
As regards the physiological non-auditory effects of listening to PMPs, increased blood
pressure and ischemic heart disease are of principal relevance. However, at present,
there is not sufficient evidence to state that music from PMPs constitutes a risk for
hypertension and ischaemic heart disease in children and young adults.
Question 2:
In case health risks are identified, the SCENIHR is asked:
a. to identify the level of noise emission safeguarding the health of citizens,
taking into account the intensity, length and number of exposures to users of
personal music players and mobile phones with the same function and
b. to identify priority issues for further research
Answer 2a, level of noise emission safeguarding the health of citizens:
Based on workplace studies, the probability of acquiring a hearing loss is negligible at
sound levels below 80 dB(A), and this level might be regarded as safe, no matter how
long (daily or weekly) the exposure to sounds from PMPs. It still remains uncertain
whether this threshold can be applied to young children.
For higher levels (above 80 dB(A)), the safety of the sound exposure levels for hearing is
determined by the time (hours a day) spent on listening to music through the PMPs. With
61
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
caution, this allowable time can be calculated by using the equal energy rule and the 3
dB exchange rate as described in the background. Assuming that an average PMP user
listens for 7 hours per week (1 hour/day), this would exceed the Noise at Work
Regulations if the sound level for the PMP exceeded 89 dB(A). However, since these
devices have been introduced in the market only very recently, there is inevitably
insufficient population data on hearing impairment. In assessing the likelihood of hearing
loss, consideration of other environmental sources of high level sound emissions need to
be taken into account.
As for non-auditory effects of sound exposure from PMPs, no level of noise emission
safeguarding the health could be established so far.
Answer 2b, priority issues for further research:
In the face of an increasing population at risk of hearing loss and tinnitus due to i)
increasing PMPs use and acceptance in the EU and ii) the possibility to use PMPs at high
sound levels, there is a lack of data concerning:
a) the current PMP use pattern, duration, output level, choice of loud levels and exposure
of users to other high level sound sources.
b) the contribution of loud sounds to hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as cognitive and
attention deficits in children and young people.
c) long-term studies using more sensitive hearing impairment measures to assess the
impact of PMPs on hearing and to identify the potential sub-groups more ‘at risk’ (e.g.
children, genetic sub-groups and environmental sub-groups such as those who commute
to work or school in noisy surroundings).
d) the biological basis of individual susceptibility to noise and the benefits from
pharmacological treatment.
e) whether excessive voluntary PMP-listening leads to lasting and irreversible cognitive
and attention deficits after the cessation of the noise.
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Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
5. COMMENTS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION
Information about the public consultation has been broadly communicated to national
authorities, international organisations, and other stakeholders. The relevant web site
was opened for comments on 27 June 2008 and the deadline for submission was 27
August 2008. In total, 9 contributions were received from which 7 were from
organisations and 2 from individuals. Of the organisations, 1 was non governmental, 2
public authorities, 2 academic institutions and 2 business organisations.
In evaluating the responses from the consultation, submitted material has only been
considered for revision of the opinion if:
1.
it is directly referring to the content of the report and relating to the issues that
the report addresses,
2.
it contains specific comments and suggestions on the scientific basis of the
opinion,
3.
it refers to peer-reviewed literature published in English, the working language of
the SCENIHR and the working group,
4.
it has the potential to add to the preliminary opinion of SCENIHR.
Each submission has been carefully considered by the Working Group. Overall, the
comments were of good quality. The report has been revised to take account of relevant
comments and the literature has been updated with relevant publications. The Opinion,
however, remained essentially unchanged, but was, in certain respects, clarified by the
amendments to the scientific rationale.
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Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
6. MINORITY OPINION
None.
64
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
7. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
dB(A)
A-weighted decibel
dB HL
Hearing level decibel
dB nHL
Normal hearing level decibel
dB SPL
Decibel of sound pressure level
DPOAEs
Distortion-product otoacoustic emissions
EWI
Early warning indicator
HATS
Head and torso simulator
HRTF
Head-related transfer function
HTL
Hearing threshold level
IHC
Inner hair cells
ISO
International standard organization
KEMAR
Knowles electronics manikin for acoustic research
NIHL
Noise-induced hearing loss
NITS
Noise induced threshold shift
OAEs
Otoacoustic emissions
OHC
Outer hair cells
OES
occluded ear simulator
PCP
Personal cassette players
PMP
Personal music player
PST
Prolonged spontaneous tinnitus
PTS
Permanent threshold shift
SII
Speech intelligibility index
STI
Speech transmission index
TEOAEs
Transient-evoked otoacoustic emissions
TTS
Temporary threshold shift
WHO
World Health Organisation
65
Health risks from exposure to noise from personal music players
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