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Occupational noise induced hearing loss and audiometry

The John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research (JWCRR) has completed a rapid review on Occupational noise induced hearing loss and audiometry.

Key findings from the rapid review

  • Hearing aids are effective for improving listening ability and quality of life for people with work-related hearing loss.
  • Best results are achieved when an individual assessment of the worker’s hearing loss and their needs is performed, and a hearing aid is prescribed based on these factors.
  • Pure Tone Audiometry is still considered to be the "gold standard" of audiometry for determining type and degree of hearing loss.
  • Otolarynologists (Ear Nose and Throat Specialists), audiologists and audiometrists can perform audiometric testing, and both Ear Nose and Throat Specialists and audiologists are the only ones uniquely qualified to interpret results and diagnose noise induced hearing loss
  • Differentiating between noise induced hearing loss and age-related hearing loss is difficult, so clinicians need to assess work history, noise exposure history as well as other confounding factors and risk factors to compliment the audiometric testing results.
  • By 70-80 years of age hearing loss has evened out between those exposed to occupational noise and those not exposed.
  • Hearing loss from exposure will not worsen after the exposure has ceased.
  • Best practice treatment for the management of Noise Induced hearing loss) is using amplification devices and audiological rehabilitation, including support, training and counselling, to reduce activity limitation and increase community participation.
  • Significantly, uptake and compliance with hearing aids improves when the hearing aid is delivered to the worker together with support, training, counselling and auditory rehabilitation, resulting in better communication outcomes and improved participation in social activities.
  • The report notes a range of aids available from $1,500 - $15,000 for aids ($750 - $7,500 per aid), with $2,500 ($1,250 per aid) the price bracket for the beginning of advanced technology.
  • There have been substantial improvements in hearing aids over the years.

Next steps

SIRA is working to review the claims process for work-related hearing loss in the NSW workers compensation system. This will take into consideration the findings of this rapid review, those of the public consultation and the insights from the in-depth interviews with workers done in the qualitative research.