Noise-dose estimated with and without pre-cochlear amplification

Sarah K. Grinn, Colleen G. Le Prell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

Amplification from natural ear canal resonance has been documented as highly variable across individuals. However, individual variability in total pre-cochlear amplification (i.e., combined external and middle ear mechanisms) remains understudied in relevance to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). It is well-known that more noise means more risk of hearing loss, yet the current risk-models do not consider individually variable pre-cochlear amplification, also referred to as the transfer function of the open ear (TFOE). The present study principally documented individual TFOE variability and explored the feasibility and accuracy of simple proxy metrics, which could be used to estimate TFOE. Participants' TFOE values were used to estimate their NIHL risk in hypothetical free-field exposures. Forty-eight adult participants (42 female, 6 male, ages 21-60 years) met inclusion criteria of 2 healthy pinnae and ear canals (<10% cerumen occlusion) and type-A tympanometric examination. Participants underwent otoscopy, tympanometry, pinna size measurement, real-ear-to-coupler-difference, and TFOE measurement. TFOE ranged from 5 to 15 dB-A (mean = 10 dB-A); given that NIHL risk is estimated to double in either 3 or 5 dB-A increments, the observed variability could explain a substantial portion of individual vulnerability to NIHL. A simple regression model with eardrum compliance (ml) was correlated with individual TFOE (p < 0.05). TFOE variability has the potential to substantially explain why two individuals with the same noise-exposure can develop significantly different degrees of NIHL. Eardrum compliance (ml) was a correlated proxy measurement of TFOE in this principally adult, female dataset; additional research is needed to confirm this relationship in a unique, heterogeneous dataset.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3967-3977
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Volume146
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019

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