, Volume 24, Issue 8, pp 469-475
Date: 19 Jun 2009

Validity of self-reported occupational noise exposure

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In all epidemiological studies the validity of self-reported questionnaire data is an important issue as the exposure assessment based on such data is a major source of bias in the risk estimation. A validation study was conducted based on a case–control study including 94 acoustic neuroma cases and 191 matched controls from the German Interphone Study to investigate the level of agreement between self-reported occupational noise exposure and a job-exposure-matrix (JEM) on noise exposure derived from a lifetime occupation calendar. The JEM was generated based on measurement data collected in the literature for various occupations. Level of agreement was investigated by using sensitivity, specificity, kappa coefficient and the Youden-Index. The receiver operating characteristics curve yielded an optimal cut point of 80 decibel(Acoustic) (dB(A)) to dichotomize noise exposure, displaying a moderate agreement between self-reported exposure and the JEM-based exposure (kappa of 0.53) that was slightly higher for cases than controls (kappas of 0.62 and 0.48). The agreement was only slightly lower if the longest held job or the last held job were used instead of the loudest job of the lifetime job history. The cut point of 80 dB(A) corresponds with regulations for workers safety with a recommendation to wear noise protection. The good levels of agreement between self-reported high occupational noise exposure compared with JEM-data, together with no substantial differences between cases and controls, suggest that self-reported data on occupational noise exposure is a valid exposure metric. Noise exposure appears to be appropriate if only exposure information on the last or the longest held job is available.