OBJECTIVE: To investigate the effects of previous occupational noise exposure in older adults with hearing loss on (1) audiometric configuration and acoustic reflex (AR) thresholds and (2) self-reported hearing abilities and hearing aid (HA) effectiveness.
DESIGN: A prospective observational study.
STUDY SAMPLE: The study included 1176 adults (≥60 years) with bilateral sensorineural hearing loss. Pure-tone audiometry, AR thresholds, and responses to the abbreviated version of the Speech, Spatial, and Qualities of Hearing Scale (SSQ12) and the International Outcome Inventory for Hearing Aids (IOI-HA) questionnaire were obtained, along with information about previous occupational noise exposure.
RESULTS: Greater occupational noise exposure was associated with a higher prevalence of steeply sloping audiograms in men and women and a 0.32 (95% CI: -0.57; -0.06) scale points lower mean SSQ12 total score among noise-exposed men. AR thresholds did not show a significant relation to noise-exposure status, but hearing thresholds at a given frequency were related to elevated AR thresholds at the same frequency.
CONCLUSIONS: A noise exposure history is linked to steeper audiograms in older adults with hearing loss as well as to poorer self-reported hearing abilities in noise-exposed men. More attention to older adults with previous noise exposure is warranted in hearing rehabilitation.