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Year : 2003  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 20  |  Page : 75--84

Temporary hearing threshold shifts and restitution after energy-equivalent exposures to industrial noise and classical music

Ergonomics Division, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany

Correspondence Address:
H Strasser
Ergonomics Division, University of Siegen, Paul-Bonatz-Str. 9-11, 57068 Siegen
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 14558895

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In order to investigate whether the energy-equivalence principle is at least acceptable for exposures with a duration in the range of hours and in order to disclose the actual physiological responses to exposures which varied with respect to the time structure and the semantic quality of sounds, a series of tests was carried out where physiological costs associated with varying exposures were measured audiometrically. In a cross-over test design, 10 Subjects (Ss) participated in test series with 3 energetically equal sound exposures on different days. The exposures corresponded with a tolerable rating level of 85 dB / 8 h. In a first test series (TS I), the Ss were exposed to a prototype of industrial noise with a sound pressure level of 94 dB(A) / 1 h. In a second test series (TS II), the same type of noise was applied, but the exposure time of a reduced level of 91 dB(A) was increased to 2 hours. In a third test series (TS III), classical music was provided also for 2 h at a mean level of 91 dB(A). The physiological responses to the 3 exposures were recorded audiometrically via the temporary threshold shift TTS 2 , the restitution time t(0 dB), and the IRTTS-value. IRTTS is the integrated restitution temporary threshold shift which is calculated by the sum of all threshold shifts. It represents the total physiological costs the hearing must "pay" for the sound exposure. Physiological responses of the hearing to the industrial noise exposures in TS I and TS II, all in all, were identical in the 3 parameters. Maximum threshold shifts of approximately 25 dB occurred which did not dissipate completely until 2½ h after the end of the exposure and IRTTS-values of about 800 dBmin were calculated. Therefore, at least for exposure times in the range of hours, the equilibration of intensity and duration of sound exposures according to the energy-equivalence principle seems to have no influence on the hearing. Classical music was associated with the least severe TTS of less than 10 dB which disappeared much more quickly. IRTTS added up to just about 100 dBmin and, in comparison with 800 dBmin as specific responses to industrial noise, amounted to only about 12%. The substantially lower physiological costs of classical music apparently indicate a decisive influence of the type of sound exposures. Making inferences from the results of the study, the conventional approach of rating sound exposures exclusively by the principle of energy­equivalence can lead to gravely misleading assessments of their actual physiological costs.


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