Comparison of Pure-Tone Average Methods for Estimation of Hearing Loss Caused by Environmental Exposure to Lead and Cadmium: Does the Pure-Tone Average Method Which Uses Low-Frequency Ranges Underestimate the Actual Hearing Loss Caused by Environmental Lead and Cadmium Exposure?

Da An Huh, Yun Hee Choi, Myung Sun Ji, Kyong Whan Moon, Seok J. Yoon, Jong Ryeul Sohn

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Previous studies have reported that exposure to lead and cadmium can damage the inner ear receptor, which perceives high-frequency sounds. However, few studies have used the pure-tone average (PTA), including high-frequency ranges, for the estimation of hearing loss caused by lead and cadmium exposure. We estimated hearing loss using the PTA test, in low-frequency, speech frequency, and high-frequency ranges and compared the differences in the results using 3 PTA calculation methods. We analyzed the data of 2,387 participants, between the ages of 19 and 85 years, that were obtained from the Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES) of 2010-2012. A dose-response relationship between hearing loss and heavy metal exposure was observed in the high-frequency method after adjustment for confounding factors. When using the high-frequency PTA, it was found that doubling of the levels of lead and cadmium in the blood was associated with a 1.88- (95% CI 1.11-3.17) and 1.89-fold (95% CI 1.02-3.50) increase in the OR for hearing loss. In the case of the low-frequency and speech frequency PTA, however, there were no significant relationships between hearing loss and the concentrations of lead and cadmium in the blood. The outcomes of the present study suggest that the estimation of hearing loss caused by environmental exposure to lead and cadmium is affected by the frequencies used in the PTA calculation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)259-269
Number of pages11
JournalAudiology and Neurotology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018 Jan 1



  • Cadmium
  • Hearing
  • Lead
  • Pure-tone average

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Speech and Hearing

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