Background: Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is usually one of the main problems in industrial settings. The aim of this study was to determine whether changes in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) in different DPOAE are caused by exposure to different levels of noise at different time intervals among workers exposed to noise.

Methods: This case-control study was conducted in the autumn of 2014 on 45 workers at Gol Gohar Mining and Industrial Company, which is located in Sirjan in southeast Iran. The workers were divided into three groups based on their noise exposure, i.e., 1) 15 office workers as a control group with exposure to low levels of noise, 2) 15 workers from manufacturing departments who were exposed to a medium level of noise, and 3) 15 workers from manufacturing departments who were exposed to high levels of noise. The SNRs at the frequencies of 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, and 6000 Hz were measured in both ears at three different time intervals during the shift work. SNRs of 6 or greater were considered as inclusion criterion. Repeated measures, the Spearman rank-order correlation test, and paired t-test analyses were used with α = 0.05 being the level of significance.

Results: For all frequencies in the right and left ears, the SNR values were more than 6, thus all SNR values were considered as acceptable responses. The effects of time and sound pressure level (SPL) on SNR were significant for the right and left ears (p = 0.027 and < 0.001, respectively). There was a statistically significant correlation between the SNR values in the right and left ears for the time intervals 7:30–8:00 A.M. and 13:30–14:00 P.M., which implied that an increase in the duration of exposure led to reduced SNR values (p = 0.024, r = 0.948).

Conclusions: The comparison of the SNR values in the right and left ears (for all frequencies and the three different SPLs) indicated that the values decreased during the shift work.

Keywords: hearing loss, noise-induced, otoacoustic emissions, signal-to-noise ratio
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