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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 69  |  Page : 102--107

Asymmetry in noise-induced hearing loss: Evaluation of two competing theories

1 Biomedical Informatics Research Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA
2 Department of Emergency Medicine; Department of Public Health Sciences, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
3 Department of Audiology, Marshfield Clinic, Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA
4 National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, Marshfield, Wisconsin, USA

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Barbara Marlenga
National Farm Medicine Center, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, 1000 North Oak Avenue, Marshfield, WI 54449
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Source of Support: This study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (R01 OH009392),, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1463-1741.132092

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Competing theories exist about why asymmetry is observed in noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). We evaluated these theories using a cohort of young workers studied over 16 years. The study aim was to describe and evaluate patterns of hearing loss and asymmetry by gender, agricultural exposure and gunfire exposure. This was a secondary analysis of data collected from young adults during follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. This follow-up study evaluated long-term effects of a hearing conservation intervention for rural students. The sample consisted of 392 of 690 participants from the original trial. In total, 355 young adults (aged 29-33 years) completed baseline and follow-up noise exposure surveys and clinical audiometric examinations. Data are displayed graphically as thresholds by frequency and ear and degree of asymmetry between ears (left minus right). In the primary group comparisons, low and high frequency averages and mean high frequency asymmetry were analyzed using mixed linear models. At frequencies >2000 Hz, men showed more hearing loss, with greater asymmetry and a different asymmetry pattern, than women. For men with documented hearing loss, there was a trend toward increasing asymmetry with increasing levels of hearing loss. Asymmetry at high frequencies varied substantially by level of shooting exposure. While "head shadowing" is accepted as the primary explanation for asymmetric hearing loss in the audiologic and related public health literature, our findings are more consistent with physiological differences as the primary cause of asymmetric hearing loss, with greater susceptibility to NIHL in the left ear of men.


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