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Hearing profile of gold miners with and without tuberculosis
  1. Janet Brits1,
  2. Susan Strauss1,2,
  3. Zahan Eloff3,
  4. Piet J Becker4,6,
  5. De Wet Swanepoel1,5
  1. 1Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa
  2. 2Research Division, Ear Institute, Pretoria, South Africa
  3. 3Occupational Health Department, AngloGold Ashanti, Carletonville, South Africa
  4. 4Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council, Gauteng, South Africa
  5. 5Callier Center for Communication Disorders, School of Behavioral & Brain Sciences, University of Texas, Dallas, Texas, USA
  6. 6Division of Clinical Epidemiology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria
  1. Correspondence to Professor De Wet Swanepoel, Department of Communication Pathology, University of Pretoria, PO Box X20, Hatfield, Pretoria, Gauteng 0028, South Africa; dewet.swanepoel{at}


Objectives To compare the hearing of gold miners with and without tuberculosis (TB) to determine the effect of TB and its associated risk profile on hearing.

Methods Audiological and medical surveillance data of 2698 South African gold miners for 2001–2009 were analysed in a retrospective cohort design. Hearing thresholds for the air conduction frequencies (0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8 kHz) in both ears were analysed together with biographical and occupational data. Subjects were divided into two experimental (single TB treatment, n=911 and multiple TB treatment, n=376) and one control group (n=1411). Comparisons between groups included (1) change from baseline to most recent audiogram, (2) most recent hearing thresholds and (3) most recent thresholds in a subset of noise exposed and unexposed groups.

Results Hearing thresholds for the TB groups were significantly (p<0.01) elevated compared to the control group, after correcting for time between baseline and most recent audiogram, threshold at baseline and age at test. Pair-wise comparisons demonstrated the largest threshold differences between the control and multiple TB group. Changes in mean thresholds across TB treatment groups were independent of noise exposure. Hearing thresholds over time also deteriorated significantly more (p<0.01) in workers with TB (single and multiple treatment) than in workers without TB.

Conclusion Gold miners with TB, especially with more than one episode of TB, demonstrate significantly poorer hearing thresholds and more pronounced decline in hearing over time independent of noise exposure. The exact cause is likely a complex interaction between TB, including treatment, and its associated risk profile.

  • Tuberculosis
  • noise-induced hearing loss
  • hearing profile
  • TB treatment
  • associated risk profile
  • occupational health practice
  • hearing
  • communicable diseases
  • ENT
  • health and safety
  • hygiene/occupational hygiene
  • health surveillance
  • legal
  • HIV

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics committee at AngloGold Ashanti and the Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria approved this study.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.