Acoustic neuroma: potential risk factors and audiometric surveillance in the aluminium industry
Objectives To look for an association between acoustic neuroma (AN) and participation in a hearing conservation programme (HCP) and also for an association between AN and possible occupational risk factors in the aluminium industry.
Methods We conducted a case–control analysis of a population of US aluminium production workers in 8 smelters and 43 other plants. Using insurance claims data, 97 cases of AN were identified between 1996 and 2009. Each was matched with four controls. Covariates included participation in a HCP, working in an aluminium smelter, working in an electrical job and hearing loss.
Results In the bivariate analyses, covariates associated with AN were participation in the HCP (OR=1.72; 95% CI 1.09 to 2.69) and smelter work (OR=1.88; 95% CI 1.06 to 3.36). Electrical work was not significant (OR=1.60; 95% CI 0.65 to 3.94). Owing to high participation in the HCP in smelters, multivariate subanalyses were required. In the multivariate analyses, participation in the HCP was the only statistically significant risk factor for AN. In the multivariate analysis restricted to employees not working in a smelter, the OR was 1.81 (95% CI 1.04 to 3.17). Hearing loss, an indirect measure of in-ear noise dose, was not predictive of AN.
Conclusions Our results suggest the incidental detection of previously undiagnosed tumours in workers who participated in the company-sponsored HCP. The increased medical surveillance among this population of workers most likely introduced detection bias, leading to the identification of AN cases that would have otherwise remained undetected.