Objective: This study aimed to identify the characteristics of distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAEs) that can be used to differentiate noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) from age-related hearing loss. A potential index to detect NIHL was defined in terms of its susceptibility to cumulative noise exposure but not to age. Design: In this cross-sectional cohort study, a job-exposure matrix was used to calculate the cumulative noise exposure. Multivariate linear regression models were used to examine how age and cumulative noise exposure associated with DPOAEs at individual frequencies after adjusting for hypertension, dyslipidaemia, tobacco use and alcohol consumption. Study sample: The pure-tone audiometry and DPOAEs data collected from 239 male workers in a steel factory. Results: DPOAEs and DPOAE signal-to-noise ratios (SNRs) at all frequencies were found to be correlated with age, and those at 2, 3, 4 and 6 kHz were correlated with both age and noise exposure. The difference between DPOAE SNR at 1 and 3 kHz showed significant correlation with noise exposure but not with age. Conclusions: The results showed that this DPOAE index, the DPOAE SNR at 1 kHz minus the DPOAE SNR at 3 kHz, could add values to audiometric evaluation of NIHL.
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