Better estimates of the extent of noise exposure and the relative contribution of different sources of noise across the working population will inform preventive strategies in this area. However, assessing occupational noise exposure with dosimeters is expensive and time consuming. A questionnaire which estimates noise exposure over the same period as a dosimeter would be useful not only in epidemiological studies, but also in practice.
We recruited 100 construction workers from a range of different trades including electricians, carpenters and labourers with median age of 32 years (range 17 to 62 years). Noise exposure for the construction workers was estimated using a job-specific questionnaire within OccIDEAS, an online exposure assessment system. The questionnaire asks participants about tasks performed and tools used in the previous working shift and the duration of time these tools were used. Algorithms combine this information to produce an averaged 8-hour equivalent continuous A-weighted sound pressure level (LAeq8h) for the working shift. We compared the results from OccIDEAS for each worker with the results from dosimeters worn over the same work shift.
The estimated LAeq8h by OccIDEAS ranged from 63 dB to >104 dB and the readings from dosimeters ranged from 71 dB to 101 dB. The correlation between the two measures was moderate using a continuous variable of noise exposure with r(Pearson) = 0.56. Bland-Altman limits of agreement were 75.8 dB to 94.2 dB at the occupational limit of 85 dB. However, the ability of the OccIDEAS questionnaire to discriminate between participants exposed and not exposed at the LAeq8h occupational limit of 85 dB was close to excellent with an area under the curve of 0.793 (95% confidence interval 0.704 to 0.881).
The OccIDEAS noise questionnaire is a valid measurement of occupational noise exposure which will be a useful tool, especially in large epidemiological studies.
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