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Speech recognition index of workers with tinnitus exposed to environmental or occupational noise: a comparative study

Márcia Soalheiro1*, Lucelaine Rocha1, Diane Francis do Vale1, Viviane Fontes2, Daniel Valente1 and Liliane Reis Teixeira1

Author Affiliations

1 Centro de Estudos da Saúde do Trabalhador e Ecologia Humana, Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, Sala 55 Rua Leopoldo Bulhões, 1480, Manguinhos, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, CEP: 21040-360, Brasil

2 Municipal Secretariat of Health and Civil Defense, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology 2012, 7:26  doi:10.1186/1745-6673-7-26

Published: 22 December 2012



Tinnitus is considered the third worst symptom affecting humans. The aim of this article is to assess complaints by workers with tinnitus exposed to environmental and occupational noise.


495 workers went through an epidemiological survey at the Audiology Department of the Center for Studies on Workers’ Health and Human Ecology, from 2003 to 2007. The workers underwent tonal and vocal audiometry, preceded by a clinical and occupational history questionnaire. Two-factor ANOVA and Tukey were the statistical tests used. All the analysis set statistical significance at α=5%.


There was a higher prevalence of occupational tinnitus (73.7%), a predominance of female domestic workers (65.4%) in cases of environmental exposure, and predominance of male construction workers (71.5%) for occupational exposure. There was a significant difference in workers with hearing loss, who showed a mean speech recognition index (SRI) of 85%, as compared to healthy workers with a mean SRI greater than 93.5%. Signs and symptoms, speech perception, and interference in sound localization with the type of noise exposure (environmental versus occupational) comparisons found no significant differences.


Studied group’s high prevalence of tinnitus, major difficulties in speech recognition with hearing loss and the presence of individuals with normal hearing with both types of exposure justify the importance of measures in health promotion, prevention, and hearing surveillance. The findings highlight the importance of valuing the patients’ own perception as the first indication of tinnitus and hearing loss in order to help develop appropriate public policies within the Unified National Health System (SUS).

Tinnitus; Noise; Workers’ health; Hearing health