Occupational safety: effects of workplace radiofrequencies on hearing function.
Arch Med Res. 2004 Nov-Dec;35(6):517-21. PMID: 15631877
M Faruk Oktay
BACKGROUND: The effects of radio frequency (RF) and microwave radiation on humans have been the subject of continuous investigation. Clinical investigations related to occupational RF/microwave exposure have been reported by investigators (1). Since one of the major groups occupationally exposed to RF and microwave radiation includes those working in radio broadcasting and TV transmitter stations, this study investigates whether RF affects auditory systems of people exposed to RF.
METHODS: The study is carried out with people working in radio broadcasting stations and living in employee residential houses close to the broadcasting stations. All subjects in the control group were similar in age, work regime, socioeconomic status, and lack of experience in working with RF sources. Brainstem Evoked Response Audiometer (BERA) and Pure Tone Audiometry (PTA) were used to measure the effects of RF under investigation on hearing functions of the subjects. In BERA measurements, I-III, III-V and I-V interpeak latencies were evaluated. In pure tone audiometric measurements, 250 Hz, 500 Hz, 1000 Hz, 2000 Hz, 4000 Hz and 8000 Hz frequencies of hearing threshold were measured in subjects of experimental and control groups. Interpeak latencies and bone conduction hearing thresholds of subjects in the experimental group were compared with those of the control group.
RESULTS: BERA results showed that I-III, I-V and III-V interpeak latencies of people occupationally exposed to RF were not higher than subjects in control groups (p>0.05). Results of BERA indicated no statistically significant differences between exposure and control subjects. In audiometric evaluation, hearing threshold of people occupationally exposed to RF were found higher than the control group subjects for frequencies of 4000 Hz and 8000 Hz in terms of bone and air conduction of right and left ear (p<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: The results of traditional audiometer indicated that RF promotes sensorineural hearing loss and affects cochlea parts related to 4000 Hz and 8000 Hz. These findings may have immediate implications and considerations for workplace safety in order to provide an occupationally safe environment to employees working in such settings.