Could driving safety be compromised by noise exposure at work and noise-induced hearing loss?
OBJECTIVE: A study was conducted to verify if there is an association between occupational noise exposure, noise-induced hearing loss and driving safety expanding on previous findings by Picard, et al. (2008) that the two factors did increase accident risk in the workplace. METHODS: This study was made possible when driving records of all Quebec drivers were made available by the Societe de l'assurance automobile du Quebec (SAAQ is the state monopoly responsible for the provision of motor vehicle insurance and the compensation of victims of traffic accidents). These records were linked with personal records maintained by the Quebec National Institute of Public Health as part of its mission to prevent noise induced hearing loss in the workplace. Individualized information on occupational noise exposure and hearing sensitivity was available for 46,030 male workers employed in noisy industries who also held a valid driver's permit. The observation period is of five years duration, starting with the most recent audiometric examination. The associations between occupational noise exposure levels, hearing status, and personal driving record were examined by log-binomial regression on data adjusted for age and duration of exposure. Daily noise exposures and bilateral average hearing threshold levels at 3, 4, and 6 kHz were used as independent variables while the dependent variables were 1) the number of motor vehicle accidents experienced by participants during the study period and 2) participants' records of registered traffic violations of the highway safety code. The findings are reported as prevalence ratios (PRs) with their 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Attributable numbers of events were computed with the relevant PRs, lesser-noise, exposed workers and those with normal hearing levels making the group of reference. RESULTS: Adjusting for age confirmed that experienced workers had fewer traffic accidents. The data show that occupational noise exposure and hearing loss have the same effect on driving safety record than that reported on the risk of accident in noisy industrial settings. Specifically, the risk of traffic accident (PR = 1.07 (CI 95% [1.01; 1.15]) is significantly associated with the daily occupational noise exposures >or= 100 dBA. For participants having a bilateral average hearing loss ranging from 16 to 30 dB, the PR of traffic accident is 1.06 (CI 95% [1.01; 1.11]) and reaches 1.31 (CI 95% [1.2; 1.42]) when the hearing loss exceeds of 50 dB. A reduction in the number of speeding violations occurred among workers occupationally exposed to noise levels >or= 90 dBA and those with noise-induced hearing loss >or=16 dB. By contrast, the same individuals had an increase in other violations of the Highway safety code. This suggests that noise-exposed workers might be less vigilant to other traffic hazards. CONCLUSION: Daily occupational noise exposures >or= 100 dBA and noise-induced hearing losses-even when just barely noticeable-may interfere with the safe operation of motor vehicles.
Date de publication (Zotero)