This study investigated self-reported indicators of noise exposure, symptoms of hearing loss and awareness of hearing problems in 76 Australian fitness instructors working in the Newcastle area (NSW) 1997–1998 and Sydney in 2009–2011. Nineteen Newcastle instructors also submitted for audiometry. Instructors spent an average of 11.5 h/week in fitness classes, 30.3 % did other paid work involving noise exposure for all or most of the time and for an average of 25 h/week and 72.4 % attended music entertainment venues for an average of 4 h/week. The loudness categories and previously recorded noise levels were used to estimate Pascal-squared hours of noise exposure, and instructors were classified into low- and high-exposure groups. 64 % of instructors reported experiencing at least one of the symptoms of tinnitus, temporary hearing loss, dizziness, or the need to turn up the volume on the radio and there was a non-significant correlation between the occurrence of symptoms and noise exposure. More instructors reported no symptoms in the low- compared with the high-exposure group. Audiogram hearing thresholds were compared against the 10th percentile of gender- and age-matched normal subjects. 68.8 % of audiograms revealed an elevated threshold in at least one ear and 37.5 % showed an auditory notch at 6000 Hz. Overall the findings showed that more than half of fitness instructors had signs or symptoms of hearing loss and were potentially exposed to excess noise. It is important to communicate the risks of loud music in fitness classes and partner with media outlets to publicise research findings and raise awareness amongst those at risk.
- Noise-induced hearing loss