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Current insights in noise-induced hearing loss: a literature review of the underlying mechanism, pathophysiology,… Le, Trung N; Straatman, Louise V; Lea, Jane; Westerberg, Brian May 23, 2017

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REVIEW Open AccessCurrent insights in noise-induced hearingloss: a literature review of the underlyingmechanism, pathophysiology, asymmetry,and management optionsTrung N. Le†, Louise V. Straatman†, Jane Lea* and Brian WesterbergAbstractBackground: Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common forms of sensorineural hearing loss, is amajor health problem, is largely preventable and is probably more widespread than revealed by conventional puretone threshold testing. Noise-induced damage to the cochlea is traditionally considered to be associated withsymmetrical mild to moderate hearing loss with associated tinnitus; however, there is a significant number ofpatients with asymmetrical thresholds and, depending on the exposure, severe to profound hearing loss as well.Main body: Recent epidemiology and animal studies have provided further insight into the pathophysiology,clinical findings, social and economic impacts of noise-induced hearing loss. Furthermore, it is recently shown thatacoustic trauma is associated with vestibular dysfunction, with associated dizziness that is not always measurablewith current techniques. Deliberation of the prevalence, treatment and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss isimportant and timely. Currently, prevention and protection are the first lines of defence, although promisingprotective effects are emerging from multiple different pharmaceutical agents, such as steroids, antioxidants andneurotrophins.Conclusion: This review provides a comprehensive update on the pathophysiology, investigations, prevalence ofasymmetry, associated symptoms, and current strategies on the prevention and treatment of noise-induced hearing loss.Keywords: Noise-induced hearing loss, Occupational hearing loss, Asymmetrical hearing loss, Sensorineural hearing lossBackgroundExposure to excessive noise is the most common prevent-able cause of hearing loss. It has been suggested that 12%or more of the global population is at risk for hearing lossfrom noise, which equates to well over 600 million people[1]. The World Health Organization estimated that one-third of all cases of hearing loss can be attributed to noiseexposure [2]. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) has longbeen recognized as an occupational disease, amongstcopper workers from hammering on metal, blacksmiths inthe 18th century, and shipbuilders or “boilermakers” afterthe Industrial Revolution [1–3].Without doubt, chronic noise exposure and the result-ant cochlear trauma cause hearing loss and tinnitus. Inthe United States among workers not exposed to noise,7% have hearing loss, 5% have tinnitus, and 2% areafflicted with both hearing loss and tinnitus. However,among noise-exposed workers the prevalence is signifi-cantly higher at 23, 15 and 9%, respectively [4]. Within agroup of one million noise-exposed workers, the highestrisk occupations for hearing loss were identified to bethose in mining, wood product manufacturing, construc-tion of buildings, and real estate and rental leasing [5].Hearing loss was more prevalent among men thanwomen, likely due to a disproportionate number ofmales in these occupations, and the risk of hearing lossincreased with age.* Correspondence:†Equal contributorsDivision of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery, Department of Surgery,University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, andreproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link tothe Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.Le et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 DOI 10.1186/s40463-017-0219-xDespite its prevalence, there is still an ongoing debateabout the consequence of the noise-induced damage.For many years, the maximum severity of NIHL wasargued to be mild to moderate and symmetrical basedon pure tone audiograms [6]. The impact of hearing lossmight be underestimated as recent studies have shownevidence for hidden hearing loss and synaptopathy-induced poor speech recognition [7, 8]. Furthermore,the additional impact of noise-induced tinnitus andvestibular dysfunction is still not fully elucidated.The objective of this review is to provide a compre-hensive overview of NIHL including the fundamentaland advanced pathophysiology, specific investigations,including detailed discussion on asymmetric NIHL,associated symptomatology, available interventions forprevention and treatment.Pathophysiology of NIHLFundamental equal-energy principleNIHL is a complex disease that results from the inter-action of genetic and environmental factors, but isgenerally still dictated by the extent of biological damagecaused by noise exposure. The total amount of noise towhich an individual is exposed can be expressed in termsof energy level. The energy level is a function of the soundpressure of noise (in decibels) and of the duration of ex-posure over time. The equal-energy principle effectivelystates equal energy will cause equal damage (in any givenindividual), such that similar cochlear damage may resultafter exposure to a higher level of noise over a shortperiod of time as would occur after exposure to a lowerlevel of noise over a longer period of time [9].Environmental factorsFor environmental exposure, hearing loss can be causedby long-term, continuous exposure to noise and isgenerally referred to as NIHL. However, hearing loss canalso result from single or repeated sudden noise expos-ure, which is generally referred to as acoustic trauma.Exposure to sudden impulse noise is more detrimentalthan exposure to steady state noise [10]. This review islargely focussed on the former.Noise trauma can result in two types of injury to theinner ear, depending on the intensity and duration of theexposure: either transient attenuation of hearing acuitya.k.a. temporary threshold shift (TTS), or a permanentthreshold shift (PTS) [11]. Hearing generally recoverswithin 24–48 h after a TTS [12]. However, recent studiesusing a mouse model have found TTS’s at young agesaccelerated age-related hearing loss, even though thehearing thresholds were completely restored shortly afterthe TTS [13]. Longitudinal data on the impact of TTS’son the human ear, however, are lacking.The recovery of TTS is probably a result of reversibleuncoupling of the outer hair cell stereocilia from thetectorial membrane [14] and/or reversible central gainincrease and associated hyperacusis and tinnitus [15].However, even when there is recovery of auditory puretone thresholds, there can be considerable damage tothe ribbon synapses, a rapid degeneration termed synap-topathy [7, 8]. Synaptopathy results in loss of connec-tions between the inner hair cells and their afferentneurons in the acute phase of noise-induced cochleartrauma [7, 16], and is most likely a result of glutamateexcitotoxicity causing damage to the post-synapticterminals [8]. This is also referred to as Noise-InducedHidden Hearing Loss, as it is not accompanied by apure-tone threshold shift [8]. Although the extent towhich synaptopathy contributes to NIHL is unknown, itis argued that these synaptopathic mechanisms, similarto synaptopathic disease in certain types of auditoryneuropathy, are involved in NIHL [17]. This is alsosupported by research in animals showing intact haircells but extensive noise-induced spiral ganglion loss [7].The characteristic pathological feature of NIHL withPTS is the loss of hair cells, particularly the prominentloss of outer hair cells at the basal turn, while loss ofinner hair cells was limited. Degeneration of the auditorynerve followed the loss of outer hair cells in both tem-poral bone histopathology and in a mouse model [18]. Acrucial characteristic of hair cell loss due to any cause(noise, ototoxic medications, age) is the inability ofmammalian sensory cells to regenerate [19].With sufficient intensity and duration of noise, notonly the hair cells but the entire organ of Corti may bedisrupted [20]. Destruction of the organ of Corti can bethe result of two mechanisms: mechanical destructionby short exposure to extreme noise intensities or meta-bolic decompensation after noise exposure over a longerperiod of time [21]. Mechanical destruction is acquiredby exposure to noise intensities above 130 dB soundpressure level (SPL) leading to disassociation of theorgan of Corti from the basilar membrane, disruption ofcell junctions, and mixing of endolymph and perilymph[22]. The pathology observed as a result of metabolic de-compensation includes stereocilia disruption, swollennuclei, swollen mitochondria, cytoplasmic vesiculation,and vacuolization [23, 24]. Current theories of metabolicdamage center on the formation of free radicals or react-ive oxygen species (ROS) and glutamate excitotoxicityevoked by excessive noise stimulation, followed by acti-vation of signalling pathways leading to cell death [25].ROS emerge immediately after noise exposure and per-sist for 7–10 days thereafter, spreading apically from thebasal end of the organ of Corti, thus widening the areaof necrosis and apoptosis [26, 27]. Glutamate is the exci-tatory neurotransmitter that acts at the synapses of theLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 2 of 15inner hair cells with the eighth cranial nerve. High levelsof glutamate can over-stimulate postsynaptic cells andcause swelling of cell bodies and dendrites [28], aprocess referred to as glutamate excitotoxicity.Another consequence of noise exposure is an increaseof free calcium (Ca2+) in outer hair cells immediatelyafter acoustic overstimulation contributed to by bothentry through ion channels and liberation from intracel-lular stores [29]. Ca2+ overload can also trigger apoptoticand necrotic cell death pathways independent of ROSformation [30].Aside from direct effects on the auditory system, noisealso can cause psychological and physiological stress. Thehypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis can modulatethe sensitivity of the auditory system and be activated byacoustic stress [31]. Mice lacking corticotropin-releasingfactor receptor (a critical factor in HPA function) in thecochlea exhibited loss of homeostasis and protectionagainst noise-induced hearing loss, leading to an increasedsusceptibility to noise trauma [32].Genetic factorsThe genetic susceptibility to NIHL has been clearly dem-onstrated in animals. Mouse strains (C57BL/6 J) exhibit-ing age-related hearing loss were shown to be moresusceptible to noise than other strains [33–35]. Also,several heterozygous and homozygous knockout miceincluding Cdh23 [36], Pmca2 [37], Sod1 [38], Gpx1 [39],Trpv4 [40], Vasp [41], and Hsf1 [42] were shown to bemore sensitive to noise than their wild-type littermates.These studies on knockout mice indicate that there aresome genetic deficits that disrupt specific pathways andstructures within the cochlea and predispose the innerear to NIHL.The discovery of human genetic factors predisposing in-dividuals to NIHL has been hindered by many difficulties.To date, no heritability studies have been performed, sincefamilies where all subjects are exposed to identical noiseconditions are almost impossible to collect. Hence, an-other approach involving screening of Single NucleotidePolymorphisms (SNPs) of different genes known to play afunctional and morphological role in the inner ear hasbeen adopted. SNPs are common point mutations in thegenome (occurring every 100 – 300 base pairs), and theirgenotyping is believed to be a successful tool in analyzingthe genetic background of complex diseases, such asNIHL. In such studies, a disease susceptibility allele is ex-pected to occur more often among susceptible groupsthan resistant ones. The most promising results were ob-tained for the inner ear potassium (K+) ion recycling andheat shock protein (HSP) genes. K+ recycling genes areindispensable for the process of hearing, as evidenced bythe fact that multiple mutations in these genes (GJB2,GJB3, GJB6, KCNE1, KCNQ1 and KCNQ4) lead toboth syndromic and non-syndromic forms of hearingloss [43–46]. HSPs form a group of conserved proteinsassisting in synthesis, folding, assembly and intracellulartransport of many other proteins. HSPs are ubiquitouslyexpressed in cells under physiological and pathologicalconditions, and their expression increases under stressfulconditions, including noise exposure. When first inducedby exposure to moderate sound levels, they can protectthe ear from excessive noise exposure [47–50]. Threegenes are responsible for HSPs synthesis: HSP70-1,HSP70-2 and HSP70-hom. Variations in HSP70-1,HSP70-2 and HSP70-hom genes were shown to be associ-ated with susceptibility to NIHL and these results werereplicated in three independent populations, Chinese,Swedish and Polish [51, 52]. Recently, the significance ofgenetic variation in NIHL development has also beenshown for otocadherin 15 and myosin 14 genes [53].Audiometric investigationsPure tone audiogramEarly or moderately advanced NIHL usually results inthe typical ‘boilermakers’ notch at 4 kHz, with spread tothe neighbouring frequencies of 3 kHz and 6 kHz [54]and some hearing recovery at 8 kHz [6, 55]. The factthat frequencies around 4 kHz are most affected bynoise is most likely due to the resonance frequency ofthe outer ear/ear canal as well as mechanical propertiesof the middle ear [56]. High frequencies are alsotypically affected by presbycusis; therefore the notchmay disappear with aging, making it difficult to differen-tiate NIHL from presbycusis. Whether or not chronicnoise exposure can also result in hearing loss at 8 kHz isdebated [57]. With further noise exposure, the notch canget deeper and wider eventually involving lower frequen-cies such as 2 kHz, 1 kHz and 0.5 kHz [58, 59].Hearing loss induced by noise exposure is quoted tobe on average no greater than 75 dB in the high frequen-cies and no greater than 40 dB in the lower frequencies[6]. However, chronic noise exposure can in some indi-viduals cause severe to profound sensorineural hearingloss (SNHL). When individual data is reviewed, severe toprofound SNHL after noise exposure is documented innoise-exposed individuals with a prevalence varyingfrom 1 to 15% [60–64], well above the prevalence amongthe general population in the United States (0.5%) andUnited Kingdom (0.7%) [65, 66]. The wide range inprevalence of severe to profound hearing loss found instudies of noise exposed populations may be influencedby underlying genetic factors, or differences in the inten-sity, type and duration of noise exposure. For instance,SNHL can progress to severe or profound withprolonged durations of noise exposure [67, 68], espe-cially in impact noise [69].Le et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 3 of 15Speech recognitionTraditionally, pure tone thresholds were solely reliedupon to determine the extent of NIHL, resulting in anunderestimation of NIHL prevalence and functionalimpact. NIHL can be associated with a decrease inspeech recognition scores in quiet as well as in back-ground noise, even in the setting of a normal pure toneaudiogram [16]. This is probably related to the synapto-pathic mechanisms, as discussed previously [7, 8, 16]and reduced temporal processing skills [70] as a result ofnoise-induced affected connections between inner haircells and low spontaneous rate auditory nerve fibres,which are important for temporal processing [8]. Inorder to quantify noise-induced damage, it is recom-mended that speech recognition tests in quiet and innoise should be performed in addition to pure tonethresholds [7].Otoacoustic emissions (OAEs)Otoacoustic emissions have the necessary features toserve as an objective, sensitive, and easy-to-administertool for the diagnosis of NIHL. In laboratory animalsexposed to high noise levels, OAE amplitude reductionsshowed a good correlation with permanent thresholdshift of more than 25 to 35 dB SPL measured byauditory evoked potentials and significant outer hair cellloss measured by histologic cochleograms [71]. Paralleldecreases in pure-tone sensitivity and OAE amplitudeswere reported among noise-exposed industrial workersand military personnel [72–74]. In a large sample of sub-jects with NIHL and normal hearing ears, the presence ofclick-evoked OAEs at 2 and 3 kHz could distinguish thetwo groups with 92.1% sensitivity (correct discriminationof NIHL) and 79% specificity (correct discrimination ofnormal audiogram) [75]. Similarly, distortion-productOAEs at 2, 3 and 4 kHz yielded 82% sensitivity and 92.5%specificity. Several studies have suggested that OAEs mayprovide an early indication of noise-induced cochleardamage before evidence for NIHL appears in standardaudiometry [76, 77]. However, OAEs can only be used tomonitor hearing effectively when there is room for hearingdeterioration; hence, audiometry is indispensable in thepresence of a pre-existing hearing loss and/or when OAEsare low or absent [78]. OAEs might be more sensitive(and perhaps very useful) with regard to detecting NIHLat an earlier, “pre-clinical” stage, although more data isneeded to establish well-defined criteria for the successfuluse of OAEs in this clinical setting.Objective measures for noise-induced-synaptopathyElectrophysiologic measurements such as ABR havebeen used to detect noise-induced synaptopathy [79].There is evidence that suprathreshold wave 1 ABR re-sponses reduced after noise exposure in animals withnormal auditory thresholds, at the frequencies tonotopi-cally related to the synaptic loss [80, 81]. Therefore it issuggested that wave 1 of the ABR can be predictive tothe degree of synaptopathy [80, 81]. However, studies inhuman subjects have yielded conflicting results withsome studies providing evidence for wave I reduction asa function of noise exposure [82], whereas others do not[83]. This variation in outcome might be caused by lackof sensitivity of ABR testing perhaps due to variations inABR electrode placement [84], which makes the usage ofwave I as a diagnostic test for cochlear synaptopathy inhumans less ideal [85].Emerging evidence suggests that acoustic reflex testingmay be helpful for early detection of noise-inducedsynaptopathy in humans. Threshold shifts in acousticreflexes, without audiometric hearing loss, might becaused by synaptopathy [86, 87]. Whether or not acous-tic reflexes can be used to assess synaptopathy inhumans requires further research.Asymmetric NIHLThe typical pattern of hearing loss resulting from acoustictrauma is symmetrical [6]. However, there is increasingevidence that asymmetrical hearing loss occurs as well(Table 1). Asymmetry in NIHL generates some contro-versy in both clinical as well as medico-legal contexts andhence warrants an in-depth discussion.Evidence for asymmetric NIHLA recent systematic review concluded that the evidencefor asymmetrical noise-induced trauma was limited,however only studies that reported an asymmetry ofmore than 15 dB were included [88]. In the generalpopulation, the incidence of interaural threshold differ-ence of 15 dB or more is only 1% [89], whereas the inci-dence of asymmetrical hearing loss in noise-exposedindividuals varies widely between 4.7 and 36% (Table 1).Asymmetries between left and right hearing thresholdsare typically small (less than 5 dB) [90, 91] with a trendtoward increasing asymmetry among higher frequenciesor with increasing levels of hearing loss [92]. There is amargin of error for audiometric testing of ± 9.6-14.2 dBfor single frequencies, with the largest range reported at4 kH [93], which needs to be considered when docu-menting asymmetric hearing loss. Furthermore, thesesmall differences are based on mean hearing thresholdsof group data, which probably underestimates the asym-metric effect of noise exposure at the individual level.It is worth considering some study findings in moredetail. In a study of 208 patients, Fernandes et al. identi-fied asymmetrical hearing loss in 22.6%, of which 6.4%had a definite history of asymmetrical noise exposureand in whom 60% had greater hearing loss in the left ear[94]. Chung et al. found a prevalence of asymmetricalLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 4 of 15Table1SummaryofliteratureonasymmetricNIHLFirstauthors&yearDesignParticipantsCalculationMethodsAsymmetryCriteriaOutcomesAdditionalfactorsconsideredMayetal.1990[101]Caseseries49dairyfarmers94%male,6%femalemeanage43.5averagefarming29.4years0.5,1,2,3kHz(PTA)3,4,6kHz(HFA)>20dBaveragehearinglossineitherearLeftearismoreseverelyaffectedinbothgroups.37%abnormalPTA,65%abnormalHFA.Significantassociationwithyearsworkedandage.presbycusis,smallsample.Ostrieta1.1989[102]Caseseries95orchestralmusicians80males,15femalesage22–640.125,0.25,0.5,0.75,1,1.5,2,3,4,6,8kHz(PTA)>20dBaveragehearinglossineitherear44%ofmusicianshadhearingimpairmentattributedtooccupationalnoiseexposure.Significantpoorerhearingontheleftearfoundathigherfrequenciesamongviolinist.instrumentplayed,sideoforchestralband,previousnoiseexposureCoxeta11995[63]Caseseries235soldierswithpastweaponnoiseexposureage16–550.5,1,2,3,4,6kHz(averagesinglefrequencythreshold)Interauraldifference=asymmetry>10dB67%asymmetryat4kHz.Averagehearinglossandinterauralasymmetryincreasedwithfrequency.handedness,emotionalimmaturity,motivationforarmyservice,useofeardefendersPirilaetal.1992[109]Cross-sectionalstudy3487randompeople1640males,1847females3agegroups(5–10,15–50,>50)0.125,0.25,0.5,1,2,3,4,6,8kHz(averagesinglefrequencythreshold)Interauraldifference=asymmetry>0dBTheinferiorityofhearingintheleftearat4kHzseemstobeassiciatedwithnoisedamage.Theaverageinterauraldifferenceat4kHzwasmoremarkedinage15–50.shootinghistoryoccupationalnoiseexposurePirilaetal.1991[98]Cohortstudy28non-shootingnormalHL10males,18femalesage17–29exposuretobroadbandnoise88–91dBformaximum8h4kHz(averagesinglefrequencythreshold)determineTTSafternoiseexposureTTSwasgreaterintheleftearthantheright.Negativecorrelationbetweenpre-exposurethresholdlevel.relyonhistory,samllsamplesize.Chungetal.1983[95]AudiologyCaseseries1461WCBclaimsforNIHLnoheadinjury,noearsurgeryage36–822kHz(averagesinglefrequencythreshold)>20dB4.7%hasasymmetry,suggestingdamagetowardapex.82.6%hasworsehearingthresholdsintheleftear.2kHzislateraldifferenceinsusceptibilitytonoisedamage.limitedfrequencyconsideredNagerisetal.2007[103]Caseseries4277armypersonnelfilesage16–553–6kHz(PTA)mildloss=25–40dBHLmoderateloss=41–60dBHLsevereloss=61–90dBHLasymmetry=differentgrade50%symmetrical.34.2%leftasymmetricalNIHL.16.3%rightasymmetricalNIHLNosignificantdifferencesin:age,sex,typeofnoise,protection,lengthofexposure,handedness,acousticreflex.Simpsonetal.1993[202]Correctionalstudy1667audiometricrecordsof10industries1367males,300femalesmeanage32.7and33.52,3,4kHz(averagethreshold)Interauraldifference=L-Rlaterality>5dB80%unilateralwithleft42%andright38%.Baselinehearingasymmetryappearstobeaprecursortounilateralitywith63%inthebetterear.norecordofotologicbackground,nonoiseexposurehistory.Hongetal.2005[60]Cohortstudy623operatingengineersmeanage42.96male92%0.5,1,2,3,4,6,8kHz(PTA)Asymmetry:>15dBat0.5,1,2kHz>30dBat3,4,6kHz19%ofworkershadasymmetricalhearingloss.Significantpoorerhearingintheleftear,especiallyat4and6kHzUseofhearingprotectiondevicesresultedinbetterhearingbutinlowuseLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 5 of 15Table1SummaryofliteratureonasymmetricNIHL(Continued)Fernandesetal.2010[94]Caseseries208clientswithhearinglossforcompensation;age36–73203males,5females0.25–6kHz(hearingthreshold)Asymmetry:>10dBfor2frequencies>15dBforonefrequency22.6%ofclientshadasymmetricalhearingloss.Leftsidehadgreaterlossin60%ofcases.MRIshowednocentralpathologyChungetal.1983[95]JOccuMedCohortstudy244shinglesawyersallmalesage20–590.5,1,2,3,4,6,8kHz(averagesinglefrequencythreshold)notdefinedAsymmetryofhearinglossissignificantbutsmallcomparedtogeneralindustrialpopulationespeciallyatlowfrequencies.101/244hadhistoryofshooting.Hearingprotectionnotwell-defined.Smalldifferenceof2.8dBtoleftside.Albertietal.1979[1]Caseseries1873patientswithhearinglossforWCB0.5,1,2,4kHz(PTA)asymmetry>15dB15%hadasymmetricalhearingloss5.2%attributedtonoiseexposurenotreatabledisorderfoundafterextensiveinvestigations.Robinsonetal.1985[111]Case–controlseries63subjectswithnoiseexposure(94dB)oflOrs97normalcontrolsubjects0.5–6kHz(hearingthreshol)Interauraldifference=L-Rasymmetry>15dB10%left-rightdifferenceat4kHz.smallsamplevariableaudiogramshapesBergetal.2014[92]Cohortstudy355youngworkersage29–3368.5%menfollow-up<16years0.5,1,2,3,4,6,8kHz(hearingthreshold)notdefinedAsymmetryat>2kHzinmenIncreasedasymmetrywithincreasedlevelsofhearinglossAsymmetrylargerinmenAsymmetryvarieswithshootingexposureNoheadshadoweffectonasymmetryDobieetal.2014[91]Case–controlseries1381menwithnoise80–102dB663menwithnoise<80dBoccupationalnoiseexposure0.5,1,2,3kHz(PTA)3,4,and6kHz(PTA)notdefinednosignificantasymmetryattributabletocurrentoccupationalnoiseexposureLeftearswere1–2dBworsethanrightearsforbothgroupsDufresneetal.1988[96]Caseseries602WCBclaims0.25–8kHz(hearingthreshold)notdefinedmorehearinglossinleftearcomparedtorightear(5–30dB)intruckdrivers,butnotsignificantforotherssmallsampleoftruckdrivers(n=10)SegaletaI.2007[99]Cohortstudy429workers241(56.2%)withnoiseexposure(hearingthreshold)188patients(43.8%)without79.3%menwithSNHL(>29dB)0.25–8kHz(hearingthreshold)notdefinedinnoiseexposedgroup,leftearhashigherthresholdinmen.nosignificantdifferenceleft-rightingroupwihoutnoiseexposure.Zapalaetal.2012[203]CaseseriesCaseseriesn=5661benignassymmetryn=85vestibularschannoma0.25–8kHz(PTA)asymmetry<20dBGreaterasymmetryinself-reportednoiseexposurehistory.Largestasymmetryatfrequencies>1kHzAsymmetryincreasedwithageSmalldifferencesinasymmetry:Males(5.14dB)at3and4kHzFemales(5.8dB)at4kHzRoysteretal.1980[90]Cohortstudyindustrialnoiseexposure14186(75.9%male)0.5–6kHz(hearingthreshold)notdefinedrightearsaresignificantlylowerthresholdAsymmetryislargestforfrequecies>2kHzMeandifferencesinasymmetryresmall(l–5dB).Kannanetal.1974[100]Reviewn=17250%malel–8kHz(meanthreshold)differenceL-R>0dBRightearsignificantlybetterhearingthanleftinmalesonlyNodataabouttheextendofnoiseexposureAbbreviations:HFAhighfrequencyaverage,HTLhearingthresholdlevel,kHzkilohertz,NIHLnoiseinducedhearingloss,PTApuretoneaverage,SNHLSensorineuralhearingloss,STSstandardthresholdshift,TTStemporarythresholdshift,WCBworkers’compensationboard,dBdecibel,Lleft,RrightLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 6 of 15hearing loss in 4.7% among 1461 patients with noise-induced hearing loss and the left ear was affected morein 82.6% [95]. Alberti et al. found a 15% prevalence ofasymmetrical hearing loss in 1873 patients referred forcompensation assessment, and concluded that 36% ofpatients with asymmetrical hearing loss were attributableto noise exposure, due to a definitive pattern of hearingloss and a history of noise exposure [1]. In truck drivers,asymmetrical hearing loss has been attributed to noiseand air rushing from the opened window [96]. Chung etal. showed that intensity of noise exposure from sawingwooden blocks into shingles was comparable betweenboth ears, but their data also showed a small but signifi-cant asymmetric hearing loss, worse on the left side, thatcorrelated with age and lifetime noise exposure whencompared to the industrial population [97]. In addition,a significant asymmetrical hearing loss of up to a >20 dBdifference was found in different studies of populationsevaluating symmetrical noise exposure [98–100]. Majorlimitations of these studies include reliance on self-reported historical exposures to noise, limited data on theextent of noise exposure, inconsistent criteria for the diag-nosis of asymmetrical hearing loss, small sample size, lackof a control group without noise exposure, and lack ofdirect measures of the physiology of the ear over time.Studies over the last two decades using industrial orcontinuous noise exposures have found that noise affectsthe left ear more than the right ear [101, 102]. A similarobservation was reported for exposure to impulse sounds,such as gunshots [63, 103]. Interestingly, other studieshave found no significant correlation between usage offirearms and asymmetry of hearing loss, although the leftear was exposed to more of the noise of the gun blast[101, 104]. Tinnitus was also reported to be more frequentin the left ear than the right ear [105, 106]. The lateraldifference with hearing in the left ear being worse thanthe right increases with frequency and reaches a peak at3–6 kHz. In fact, correlation studies looking at 2 kHzasymmetry suggest that as more frequencies are consid-ered, more patients with asymmetrical hearing loss arelikely to be found, and the degree of asymmetry can bemore precisely delineated [95]. Chung et al. reported theleft ear to be most susceptible to noise at 2 kHz, whichmay account for a small but significant interauralthreshold difference [95, 97]. Pirila et al. reporteddamage to the left ear to be more prominent in menthan in women [107, 108], whereas Nageris et al.found no such difference. With regard to age, Pirilaet al. noted that in children aged 5 to 10 years, therewas no left or right predominance in hearing loss[109]. They postulated that the difference developedlater in life and was at the level of the inner ear.Other groups also noted no effect of left- or right-handedness on hearing loss asymmetry [63, 103].Pathophysiology of asymmetric NIHLAsymmetry in NIHL could theoretically be caused byambient exogenous noise-exposure factors or byendogenous or anatomical factors. For instance, differen-tially shielding the right ear from noise or acoustic-energy emitting sources, termed the head shadow effect,may play a role in asymmetric hearing loss [110]. Signifi-cant asymmetry will theoretically occur if the noisesource is closer in proximity to one side than the other,for instance in workers using hand-held tools predomin-antly in one hand [111] or in military personnel withweapon noise exposure [103]. The handedness of thesubject should thus be of relevance. Since most individ-uals are right-handed, the muzzle blast from a shotgunreaches the left ear at a higher level than the somewhatshielded right ear. However, studies assessing the impactof handedness on hearing loss showed no correlationbetween the ear with the asymmetry and the individual’shandedness [63, 103]. Several confounding factors are ofrelevance though. Some left-handed subjects have alwaysfired right-handed or have changed from left to rightduring their careers; some rifles in use are now right-hand fire only. For most other weapons, the firingposition is fixed and therefore the amount of noiseexposure to each ear is determined by the head positionrelative to the weapon [92]. Other factors to be takeninto account include the unilateral use of ear defenders,such as in radio operators where the possible noisehazard or the protective effect can come from use of theheadset [112–114]. In industry, most workers also tendto look over their right shoulder when they operateheavy equipment, and thus their left ear is more exposedto the noise generated by the machine’s engine [115].However, the persistent inferiority of the left ear in mostof the studied noise-exposed and normal hearing popu-lations suggests that the head shadow effect cannot bethe only factor leading to asymmetric NIHL.Alternatively, the left ear may somehow be moresusceptible to NIHL than the right ear, regardless ofexogenous noise exposure factors, and this translatesinto an asymmetric pattern of hearing loss in bothnoise-exposure and general non-noise exposure popula-tions [89, 103, 110]. The notion that the left ear is the“weaker” ear in most instances is also supported by thefact that tinnitus in the left ear tends to be more magni-fied than the right ear [105, 106]. Individual differencesin ear anatomy and physiology, or differences in bio-logical recovery from noise exposure may be responsible.Johnson and Sherman examined the acoustic reflexmechanism given its role as a major protective vehicleagainst acoustic trauma [116]. In children aged 6 to12 years with normal hearing, it was discovered that theacoustic reflex threshold in the right ear was 3 to 7 dBlower than the left ear [116]. However, this finding wasLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 7 of 15not able to be replicated in adults [95]. Arguably, theprotective effect of the stapedial reflex is most efficientin the low frequency range, and may not be as importantat frequencies higher than 2 kHz [117, 118]. In short,the protective role of the efferent pathways to cochleaand the possible left-right asymmetries in this systemneed further research [119, 120].Clinical relevance of asymmetric NIHLUnilateral or asymmetrical sensorineural hearing loss is im-portant to discern, as it can be a hallmark symptom/sign ofa retrocochlear lesion (i.e. vestibular schwannoma), and insuch cases further investigation is required (i.e. MRI scan)unless there is a known reason for the asymmetry [121].Hence, recognition of asymmetrical hearing due to noiseexposure through careful history taking may optimize moreappropriate cost-effective investigation of patients.Conventional teaching suggests that a claimant forcompensation who has occupational hearing loss withasymmetrical hearing thresholds is unlikely to have anoise-induced hearing loss in the worse ear, and like anyother patient, should be investigated for the ‘other’ causeof the asymmetry. However, given the multitude ofrecent evidence in the literature, if the asymmetry underquestion cannot be explained by causes other than noise,and the MRI scan does not reveal another cause, thenthe decision given should be in favour of the worker, onthe basis of benefit of doubt [94] as the asymmetry mayrepresent a lateral difference in susceptibility to noisedamage.Beyond hearing loss: associated symptomatologyNIHL and tinnitusThe prevalence of tinnitus among noise-exposedworkers is much higher (24%) than the overall popula-tion (14%) [122], and is exponentially higher in those inthe military, up to 80% [123]. Although the majority ofindividuals with NIHL present with bilateral tinnitus,unilateral tinnitus is reported as well, with a prevalenceof up to 47% [124–126]. Tinnitus is more prevalent onthe left side [124, 125] consistent with the asymmetrydocumented in NIHL. The severity of the tinnitus maybe associated with the degree of NIHL [126, 127]. Theimpact of tinnitus has been demonstrated: apart fromtinnitus being associated with other comorbidities, suchas anxiety, depression and sleep disorders [128], noise-induced tinnitus negatively effects the quality of life inworkers [129] and for military personnel, tinnitus can bedistracting during a military operation [123].NIHL and vestibular dysfunctionThere is increasing evidence for noise-induced vestibulardeficiency, through a mechanism of noise-induced dam-age to the sacculocolic reflex pathway and/or damage tothe vestibular hair cell cilia [62, 130]. This is supportedby multiple studies in human and animals.In humans, several studies, with relatively small samplesizes (n = 20-30), showed that abnormal (reduced, delayedor absent responses) cervical vestibular evoked myogenicpotentials (VEMPs) and ocular VEMPs are associated withchronic or acute acoustic trauma [62, 131–133]. This sup-ports the hypothesis that noise causes functional damage tothe otolithic organs either directly or indirectly. Also, an as-sociation was found between cervical VEMPs and hearingoutcome after acute acoustic trauma, therefore it was con-cluded that abnormal VEMPs might indicate more severetrauma and as a result poorer hearing recovery [62].Apart from the otolithic organs, noise induced traumahas been shown to cause substantial stereocilia bundleloss and reduction in baseline firing rates of (horizontaland superior) semicircular canals in animal studies [130,134]. A study of 258 military males identified a strongcorrelation between vestibular symptoms and abnormalfindings on electronystagmography (ENG) testing; thepresence of spontaneous, gaze-evoked or positionalnystagmus and reduced caloric responses in the worsthearing ear was demonstrated, with significantly moreabnormal results of all ENG tests in the asymmetricalNIHL group compared to the group with symmetricalNIHL [135]. In these patients, reduced caloric responseswere measured in the worst hearing ear, with the left earbeing more often affected, suggesting that acoustictrauma can cause asymmetric noise-induced vestibularloss. Whether or not individuals with symmetricalhearing loss also have bilateral symmetrical vestibularhypofunction cannot be gleaned from the data as abso-lute values were not reported. Data from this study notonly supports the hypothesis that acoustic trauma cancause damage to the (horizontal) semicircular canals,but also shows evidence for asymmetrical trauma afternoise exposure, in line with previously discussedevidence for asymmetric induced hearing loss (seeparagraph “Asymmetric NIHL”).In animals, noise exposure resulted in a reduction instereocilia bundle density in vestibular end organs aswell as a reduction in regular vestibular afferent baselinefiring rates of the otolithic organs and the anterior semi-circular canal [130]. As a normal vestbulo-ocular reflexwas measured, it was concluded that noise-inducedvestibular damage can be present even in the setting ofnormal vestibular tests; comparable to “hidden hearingloss”, this might indicate that noise exposure can alsocause “hidden vestibular loss” that cannot be identifieddue to limitations in current techniques for vestibularassessment. This might explain why normal or margin-ally abnormal vestibular function tests can be seen innoise-exposed individuals [136, 137]. Although theimpact of noise-induced vestibular loss is unknown, itLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 8 of 15may explain why individuals with NIHL may presentwith balance disorders and dizziness [135, 138] andtherefore needs to be considered when evaluating theimpact of noise-induced trauma.The socio-economic impact of NIHLThe United States Government Accountability Officereport on noise (2011) indicated that hearing loss wasthe most prevalent occupational health disability in theDepartment of Defense (DoD) [123]. The DoD civilianworker compensation costs were approximately $56million in fiscal year 2003, and Veterans Affairs compen-sation costs were approximately $1.102 billion in fiscalyear 2005 with hearing loss as second most commontype of disability [12]. The World Health Organizationreported that hearing loss is in the top three commonhealth conditions related to disability in the world as of2017 [139, 140].The consequences of occupational NIHL to theindividual, although not life-threatening, can be dire.Hearing loss limits an individual’s ability to communi-cate with the surrounding world, which can lead toincreased social stress, depression, embarrassment, poorself-esteem, and relationship difficulties [59]. Socialhandicap resulting from communication difficulties isexacerbated in difficult listening situations, such as envi-ronments with excessive background noise. In addition,longitudinal studies have demonstrated an associationbetween hearing loss and declines in cognition, memory,and attention signifying the importance of preventionand treatment of hearing loss [141, 142].Occupational NIHL has been associated with an in-creased risk for work-related injuries. For each dB ofhearing loss, a statistically significant risk increase wasobserved for work-related injuries leading to admissionto hospital [143]. Individuals with asymmetrical NIHLmay experience decreased ability to localize sounds,which is critical in certain groups of workers likefirefighters and other public safety workers, and can be acareer-ending disability that has public safety implica-tions as well [144].Non-pharmaceutical interventionsEducation, regulations, legislation and workplace noisepolicyPrevention remains the best option for limiting theeffects of acoustic trauma. Hearing conservationprograms in elementary school children are potentiallyeffective to increase the knowledge about the hazards ofnoise exposure early in life and this may result in behav-ioral changes towards noise reduction and ear protection[145]. For industrial noise, elimination or reduction ofnoise through engineering or administrative controls isthe best line of defense. Legislation on occupationalnoise exposure help to regulate noise exposure andresult in noise reduction and/or noise reducing technicalimprovements to protect employees [146].The risk of NIHL can be minimized if noise is reducedto below 80 dB(A) (weighted decibel relative to humanear) [147]. For higher levels of noise, regulations arenecessary as the extent of biological damage correlatesdirectly to the total sound energy level, a function ofsound pressure (decibels) and the duration of exposure(time) [9]. Hearing loss prevention programs establishpermissible exposure limits with an exchange rate. Theexchange rate defines the number of decibels by whichthe sound pressure level may be decreased or increasedfor a doubling or halving of the duration of exposure.This principle is reflected in occupational exposurelimits for workplace noise with maximum daily exposurelimits halved for every 3–5 dB increase in noise inten-sity. For instance, assuming an exchange rate of 3 dB,4 h of exposure at 88 dB(A) is as equally hazardous as8 h at 85 dB(A).A recent Cochrane review concluded that in order toprevent occupational hearing loss, better implementa-tion of legislation and better prevention programs arenecessary [148]. Regulations vary widely among differentcountries and one third of countries in the world still donot have regulations or legislation regarding permissiblenoise levels and exchange rates [149]. Most North andSouth American countries have the permissible exposurelimit (PEL) of 85 dB(A) for an 8 h work day [149]. Insome countries (and some provinces in Canada), thePEL is up to 90 dB(A). As TTSs are higher whenworkers are exposed to 90 dB(A) as compared to85 dB(A), a standardized reduction of the PEL to85 dB(A) should be established in order to reduce theprevalence of NIHL [150]. There is also no internationalconsensus regarding the exchange rate, which varies be-tween countries from 3 dB to 5 dB [149]. There is evi-dence, however, that 3 dB overestimates the risk ofNIHL and that 5 dB is a better fit [151]. For impulsenoise, there is most often a limit of peak sound pressurelevel of 140 dB [152].Hearing protectionHearing protection offers a secondary level of protec-tion. However, evidence for effective hearing loss pre-vention programs (using personal hearing protection) islimited. The most effective hearing protection, includingearmuffs and earplugs, can reduce loud noise trauma,but compliance may be limited due to the impact onone’s ability to communicate when they are worn and/ordiscomfort related to their use [153, 154]. To promotethe use of hearing protection, different interventionalstrategies may be beneficial, such as providing generalinformation to motivate workers to use hearingLe et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 9 of 15protection or more personalized programmes thatprovide specific information regarding the risks to theindividual worker [155]. There is a trend towards im-proved hearing protective device use when a tailoredstrategy is used that is either situation specific or indi-vidual specific, compared to a non-tailored strategy[156]. Hearing protection with lower attenuation buthigher comfort is more efficient than protection withhigher attenuation but lower comfort due to complianceissues [157, 158]. Custom earplugs have a more consist-ent attenuation than non-custom earplugs, and usertraining can improve consistency [159]. Individual fit-testing, which measures the effectiveness of hearingprotection devices specifically for each individual, can beinvaluable, particularly with earplugs since they are gen-erally less consistent in noise reduction than ear muffs[160]. For earmuffs, new materials and design can poten-tially improve comfort and hearing protection. A recentpublished study using 3D printed earmuffs showed thatthe use of light materials like acrylonitrile butadienestyrene/clay nanocomposites can reduce the weight ofearmuffs without reducing the attenuation performance[161]; such technological advancements have the poten-tial to increase comfort and improve compliance.Pharmacological treatmentsAnti-inflammatory effects of corticosteroids to reducenoise induced traumaDifferent types of pharmaceutical agents have beenshown to reduce the risk of hearing loss secondary toacoustic trauma. Steroids, specifically intratympanicdexamethasone, may have a therapeutic beneficial effecton NIHL when given before [162] or after [163] acoustictrauma in animals. Although an effect is shown in a widerange of dosages, higher dosages appear to be associatedwith better hearing preservation [162].Different routes of delivery have been investigated inanimals, including intratympanic, intraperitoneal anddirect administration into the scala tympani, and all havedemonstrated protective effects as evidenced by pre-served hearing (15–20 dB lower hearing thresholds onauditory brainstem response (ABR) measurement andpreserved cochlear architecture [163, 164]. Each route ofdelivery may protect hearing at a different level; intra-tympanic administration appears to be more protectivefor the efferent terminal outer hair cells synapses,whereas intraperitoneal injections are more protectivefor the organ of Corti and stria vascularis architecture[163]. Accordingly, there appears to be a synergisticbenefit from the administration by both routes whentreating NIHL [165]. In human studies, it has beenshown that after acoustic trauma, the administration ofsystemic with intratympanic steroid treatment results inbetter hearing outcomes than with systemic steroidsalone [165, 166]. Although there is some evidence for aprotective effect of steroids in acute acoustic trauma,clearly it is not a long-term option for chronic occupa-tional noise exposure considering the negative sideeffects of systemic long-term steroid usage.Antioxidants to reduce oxidative stressAntioxidants may be a safer alternative to steroids givena more favourable side effect profile. Free oxygenradicals and oxidative stress are important in the patho-genesis of the NIHL, and therefore antioxidants couldtheoretically constitute an effective treatment.N-acetylcysteine (NAC) has been reported to reducethe ototoxic effects of noise exposure in animal models[167–171]. In humans, however, the data is limited[172–174]. Doosti et al. evaluated TTS in 48 textileworkers and showed that daily oral administration ofNAC (1200 mg/day) during continuous noise exposureprevented the occurrence of a TTS after 14 days oftreatment, whereas the untreated group showed a TTSof approximately 1.5–3 dB [172]. Lin et al. also found asignificant improvement in TTS after NAC (1200 mg/day for 14 days). However, the mean difference in TTSin the placebo-treated group versus NAC-treated groupwas only 0.3 dB [175]. Kramer et al. did not find asignificant protective effect of NAC when using a singlelower dose (900 mg PO) administered before noiseexposure [173]. A more recent randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial among a larger militarygroup (n = 566), found a 6–7% reduction in hearingthreshold shift rate, with a total daily dose of 2700 mg ofNAC after noise exposure for 16 days during weapontraining, but this was only statistically significant whenhandedness was taken into account (i.e. evaluating theeffect on the right ear only in right handed participants).In summary, there is potentially a small benefit of NACin reducing the rate of threshold shift in a noise-exposedpopulation [176].Other antioxidants that can potentially play a protect-ive role against noise-induced cochlear trauma includeginseng [172], co-enzyme Q10 [177], as well as severalvitamins, such as vitamin A [178], vitamin C [179, 180],vitamin E [181, 182], and vitamin B12 [183]. Studies inanimals showed a protective benefit from combinationantioxidant treatment, such as magnesium and vitaminA, C, and E [184], possibly due to synergistic effects[185–187], These studies were mainly performed inanimals or in small groups of humans and the resultsshould be considered preliminary. The efficacy ofcombining treatments in humans is still unknown.Neurotrophins for recovery of ribbon synapsesThere is evidence in animals that neurotrophins canoffer protective effects against noise trauma [188–191].Le et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 10 of 15Neurotrophin-3 (NT3) and brain derived neurotrophicfactor (BDNF) are important for formation and mainten-ance of hair cell ribbon synapses in the cochlea, as wellas in the vestibular epithelia [190]. NT3, derived fromsupporting cells, promotes the recovery of the numberof ribbon synapses as well as their function after noise-induced trauma [189, 190]. A dose-dependent effect wasfound of glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF)on sensory cell preservation as well as ABR confirmedhearing threshold, after chronic application of GDNF(10 and 100 ng/ml) through a cochleostomy in the scalatympani via a micro-osmotic pump. However, this effectwas small and appears to be associated with sometoxicity at a higher concentration (1 μg/ml) [188]. Evena single application of NT3 and BDNF on the roundwindow, immediately after noise trauma, can potentiallyreduce the synaptopathy (indicated by increased numberof presynaptic ribbons, postsynaptic glutamate receptors,and co-localized ribbons) and recover hearing [191].Another approach is transplantation of neurotrophin-secreting olfactory stem cells into the cochlea, whichalso caused restoration of noise-induced hearing loss[192]. Although these results are promising, long-termeffects are still unknown and no studies in humans havebeen performed to date.Other pharmaceutical agentsOther pharmaceutical agents with possible protective NIHLeffects include magnesium and statins. A human study[193] as well as research on animal models [194, 195] haveshown that acoustic trauma can potentially be minimizedby magnesium, as it reduces apoptosis of hair cells by areduction of calcium flow into the cell, thereby reducingreactive oxygen species formation. A double-blinded,placebo-controlled, crossover trial to assess the effects ofprophylactic N-acetylcysteine (600 mg) and magnesium(200 mg) prior to noise exposure is pending [196].Statins might prevent NIHL by reducing oxidative stressand improving hair cell survival in animals [197, 198]. Asignificant recovery of TTS (determined by measuringdistortion product otoacoustic emissions) was found inrats treated with 5 mg/kg atorvastatin administered dailyfor 2 weeks prior to 2 h of noise exposure [199].Surgical treatmentCochlear implantationDue to the severity of the hearing loss and/or the poorspeech recognition due to synaptopathy, some individ-uals with NIHL might eventually become candidates forcochlear implantation (CI) either with full electrical orwith electro-acoustic stimulation (EAS). Studies havereported NIHL as the etiology of deafness in implantedindividuals, with a prevalence ranging from 2% (CI) to20% (CI with EAS) [200, 201]. This may underestimatethe true prevalence, considering the high percentage ofunknown etiologies approximating 40–50% of CI recipi-ents [200]. Currently we can only speculate on the ex-tent to which the SNHL in these implanted individualscan be attributed to noise exposure or due to a combin-ation of other underlying predisposing factors.ConclusionThe impact of noise-induced hearing loss is more wide-spread than has previously been recognized. Apart froma wide range of hearing frequencies that can be ad-versely affected by noise exposure, there is increasingevidence that noise-induced synaptopathy causes re-duced speech perception in noise, even when pure tonethresholds are still preserved (“hidden hearing loss”).Evidence in the current literature further supports thenotion that noise exposure can result in an asymmetricpattern of hearing loss due to unique differences in sus-ceptibility to noise damage within individuals, increasefrequency of tinnitus as well as vestibular dysfunction.The left ear (hearing and balance) is more adversely af-fected by noise, even in the presence of symmetric noiseexposure. Future studies should focus on underlyingmechanisms that lead to the susceptibility of left-rightasymmetry, and to understand the protective role of theefferent pathways to the cochlea as demonstrated ingender differences. Primary prevention with a focus onregulations, legislation and education in schools, in com-bination with proper hearing protection are importantfirst lines of defense. Further human studies are neededto address the effectiveness of pharmaco-therapeuticoptions to prevent or mitigate noise-induced trauma.AbbreviationsABR: Auditory brainstem response; dB(A): A-weighted decibel; dB: Decibel;ENG: Electronystagmography; kHz: Kilohertz; NAC: N-acetylcysteine;NIHL: Noise-induced hearing loss; OAEs: Otoacoustic emissions;PEL: Permissible exposure limit; PTS: Permanent threshold shift; ROS: Reactiveoxygen species; SNHL: Sensorineural hearing loss; SPL: Sound pressure level;TTS: Transient threshold shift; VEMPs: Vestibular evoked myogenic potentialsAcknowledgementNone.FundingNone.Availability of data and materialsData analysed during the current study are publicly available from Pubmedand Google Scholar.Authors’ contributionsTNL: protocol development, collection and analysis of data, manuscriptwriting and assembly. LS: protocol development, collection and analysis ofdata, manuscript writing and assembly. JL: protocol development, review ofmanuscript. BW: protocol development, review of manuscript, final approvalof manuscript.Competing interestsThe authors declare that they have no competing interests.Le et al. Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery  (2017) 46:41 Page 11 of 15Consent for publicationNot applicable.Ethics approval and consent to participateNot applicable.Publisher’s NoteSpringer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims inpublished maps and institutional affiliations.Received: 12 April 2017 Accepted: 15 May 2017References1. Alberti PW, Symons F, Hyde ML. Occupational hearing loss. The significanceof asymmetrical hearing thresholds. Acta Otolaryngol. 1979;87:255–63.2. Noise and Hearing Loss. In: National Institutes of Health. ConsensusDevelopment Conference Statement. Edited by: Services USDoHH.Bethesda, MB: 1990.3. Holborow C. Deafness as a world problem. Adv Otorhinolaryngol. 1983;29:174–82.4. Masterson EA, Themann CL, Luckhaupt SE, et al. 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