The feasibility of including Distortion Product Otoacoustic Emissions (DPOAEs) in the annual medical surveillance test battery for the identification of noise-induced hearing loss in a group of workers in a beverage manufacturing industry.
The study investigated the feasibility of including DPOAEs in the annual medical surveillance test battery for the identification of NIHL in a group of employees in a manufacturing industry in KwaZulu-Natal. Feasibility was investigated by exploring the sensitivity, specificity and predictive efficiency of DPOAEs, the ability of DPOAEs to detect subtle noise-induced cochlea changes, the test-retest reliability of DPOAEs and lastly, the duration of time taken to conduct the DPOAE test bilaterally. A cross-sectional and repeated measures within-in participant design was utilized in the study. A purposive convenience sampling technique was used, as well as a stratified sampling approach in order to realize objective two of the study. The study consisted of 60 participants, which were further stratified into four test groups, i.e. Group A: 0-3 years, Group B: 3.1-6 years and Group C: 6.1-9 years and Group D: 9.1-13 years of working within the beverage manufacturing industry. A high sensitivity and negative predictive value was reported in the current study, suggesting that DPOAEs may be able to identify those who present with subtle cochlea changes as a result of exposure to occupational noise. The sensitivity of DPOAEs was 100% at 1, 2, 4, 6 and 8kHz in the right ear and at 4 and 6kHz in the left ear. The specificity of DPOAEs in the current study ranged between 55%-97% across the frequency range in the right ear and 49%-88% in the left ear. A negative predictive value of 100% was obtained bilaterally across the frequency range, except at 8kHz in the left ear. Visual inspection of the DPgram in the current study revealed a bilateral reduction in DPOAE amplitudes for all test groups in the high frequency region of the DP-Gram, namely, 5477Hz and 7303Hz, in the absence of a statistically significant difference (p>0.05). A greater frequency range appears to be affected in this group of workers, indicating that the type of noise, namely, impulse noise, may result in cochlea changes. Corresponding changes on the pure tone audiogram were not observed, however, noise notch configurations were observed for the groups with a longer history of noise exposure. This was not seen bilaterally as is typically expected with NIHL. Good test-retest reliability across the frequency range obtained in the current study further indicates the feasibility of including DPOAEs in the annual medical surveillance test battery. Additionally, the current study calculated an average of 86 seconds (1 minute 26 seconds) to conduct the DPOAE test bilaterally, confirming that DPOAEs are a quick test to administer. The findings of this study suggest that DPOAEs may be used to monitor early subtle noise-induced cochlea changes for workers exposed to noise in the beverage manufacturing industry as part of the annual medical surveillance test battery.