Noise, Lead and Age-Related Hearing Loss

Research Trainee: Sung Kyun Park, ScD, MPH, Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan

Faculty Researcher: Howard Hu, MD, ScD, MPH, Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan

Although hearing loss is one of the most profound common disabling conditions that older adults can suffer and has remained one of the top priorities on the U.S. NIOSH National Occupational Research Agenda (see:, it is substantially underestimated and its biological mechanism is poorly understood. The goal of this proposed pilot project is to examine whether noise and lead have a joint effect on hearing threshold among community-residing elderly men. This study will implement a NIOSH generated job-exposure matrix to estimate historical noise exposure. Understanding links between noise and lead exposures and age-related hearing loss informs efforts to prevent and reduce the burden of the disease. This study will take advantage of the data from a large, well-phenotyped, on-going, longitudinal cohort, the Normative Aging Study including preliminary analyses demonstrating that K-x-ray fluorescence measured bone lead levels (a novel indicator of cumulative exposure) is associated with audiometric evidence of significant hearing loss. This pilot project will not only generate additional preliminary results for a future longitudinal prospective study but also suggest preventive public health strategies to prevent or delay the incidence of hearing impairment.


Publications resulting from this project:
Park SK, Elmarsafawy S, Mukherjee B, Spiro A, 3rd, Vokonas PS, Nie H, Weisskopf MG, Schwartz J, Hu H. Cumulative lead exposure and age-related hearing loss: the VA Normative Aging Study. Hearing Research. 2010;269(1-2):48-55. doi: 10.1016/j.heares.2010.07.004. PMCID: 2934752

Park SK, Schwartz J, Wright R, Spiro A III, Vokonas P, Hu H. Atherosclerosis-related genes, low-level lead exposure and age-related hearing loss: the Normative Aging Study. Epidemiology. 2009;20(6): S211 .

Grants resulting from this project:
NIEHS. 1K01 ES016587-01A1 (PI: Park). Environment, Novel Aging Outcome, and Genetics. 2009-2013.


Research trainee’s current position:
Sung Kyun Park is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Michigan