There is a lack of research on effects of occupational noise exposure in traditionally female-dominated workplaces. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess risk of noise-induced hearing-related symptoms among obstetrics personnel.
A cross-sectional study was performed at an obstetric ward in Sweden including a questionnaire among all employees and sound level measurements in 61 work shifts at the same ward.
115 female employees responded to a questionnaire (72% of all 160 employees invited).
Self-reported hearing-related symptoms in relation to calculated occupational noise exposure dose and measured sound levels.
Sound levels exceeded the 80 dB LAeq limit for protection of hearing in 46% of the measured work shifts. One or more hearing-related symptoms were reported by 55% of the personnel. In logistic regression models, a significant association was found between occupational noise exposure dose and tinnitus (OR=1.04, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.09) and sound-induced auditory fatigue (OR=1.04, 95% CI 1.00 to 1.07). Work-related stress and noise annoyance at work were reported by almost half of the personnel. Sound-induced auditory fatigue was associated with work-related stress and noise annoyance at work, although stress slightly missed significance in a multivariable model. No significant interactions were found.
This study presents new results showing that obstetrics personnel are at risk of noise-induced hearing-related symptoms. Current exposure levels at the workplace are high and occupational noise exposure dose has significant effects on tinnitus and sound-induced auditory fatigue among the personnel. These results indicate that preventative action regarding noise exposure is required in obstetrics care and that risk assessments may be needed in previously unstudied non-industrial communication-intense sound environments.
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