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Year : 2000  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 41--56

The prevalence and type of social noise exposure in young adults in England


1 MRC Institute of Hearing Research, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, United Kingdom
2 Institute of Sound and Vibration Research, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

Correspondence Address:
Pauline A Smith
MRC Institute of Hearing Research, Clinical Section, Ropewalk House, 113 The Ropewalk, Nottingham NG1 6HA
United Kingdom
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


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There have been several recent reports on the potential risk to hearing from various types of social noise exposure. However, there are few population-based data to substantiate a case for concern. During the last 10-20 years use of personal cassette players (PCPs) has become very much more prevalent, and sound levels in public nightclubs and discotheques are reported to have increased. This study investigated the prevalence and types of significant social noise exposure in a representative population sample of 356 18-25 year olds in Nottingham. Subjects were interviewed in detail about all types of lifetime noise exposure. Noise measurements were also made for both nightclubs and PCPs. In the present sample, 18.8% of young adults had been exposed to significant noise from social activities, compared with 3.5% from occupational noise and 2.9% from gunfire noise. This indicates that social noise exposure has tripled since the early 1980s in the UK. Most of the present day exposure, measured in terms of sound energy, comes from nightclubs rather than PCPs. Moreover, 66% of subjects attending nightclubs or rock concerts reported temporary effects on their hearing or tinnitus. As will be reported in a later publication, any persistent effect of significant noise exposure on 18-25 year olds is difficult to show, however these data suggest that further work is indicated to study the possibility of sub-clinical damage, and also to consider the implications for employees of nightclubs.






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