Guidelines for Diagnosing and Quantifying Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.
This paper makes recommendations for the diagnosis and quantification of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) in a medico-legal context. A distinction is made between NIHL produced by: steady broadband noise, as occurs in some factories; more impulsive factory sounds, such as hammering; noise exposure during military service, which can involve very high peak sound levels; and exposure to very intense tones. It is argued that existing diagnostic methods, which were primarily developed to deal with NIHL produced by steady broadband noise, are not adequate for the diagnosis of NIHL produced by different types of exposures. Furthermore, some existing diagnostic methods are based on now-obsolete standards, and make unrealistic assumptions. Diagnostic methods are proposed for each of the types of noise exposure considered. It is recommended that quantification of NIHL for all types of exposures is based on comparison of the measured hearing threshold levels with the age-associated hearing levels (AAHLs) for a non-noise exposed population, as specified in ISO 7029 (2017), usually using the 50th percentile, but using another percentile if there are good reasons for doing so. When audiograms are available both soon after the end of military service and some time afterwards, the most recent audiogram should be used for diagnosis and quantification, since this reflects any effect of the noise exposure on the subsequent progression of hearing loss. It is recommended that the overall NIHL for each ear be quantified as the average NIHL across the frequencies 1, 2, and 4 kHz.