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Are hearing loss and balance dysfunction linked in construction iron workers?
  1. K H Kilburn,
  2. R H Warshaw,
  3. B Hanscom
  1. University of Southern California School of Medicine, Environmental Sciences Laboratory, Los Angeles 90033.


    The objective was to determine whether an association existed between hearing loss and balance dysfunction in construction workers exposed to noise. Screening pure tone audiometry and balance testing were performed using a sound emitter and dual microphone system to evaluate 78 iron workers who were compared with 128 histology technicians. Most iron workers showed hearing loss at frequencies below 3000 Hz. Their sway speeds were significantly faster both with the eyes open (1.05 (SD 0.39) v 0.91 (SD 0.22) cm/s) and with eyes closed (1.66 (SD 0.82) v 1.31 (SD 0.51) cm/s) than those of histology technicians. Coefficients for sway speed with the eyes closed and hearing loss in the left ear were significantly correlated at 500 to 8000 Hz. They were also correlated with the sway speed, eyes open, at low and high Hz. It is concluded that the use of air impact power tools in an inordinately noisy work environment makes iron workers prematurely deaf and impairs their balance. Falls may be related to balance dysfunction and impaired equilibrium. Falls from height injure and kill iron workers. Further investigations will determine whether injuries from falls are linked to these impairments.

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