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Hearing and Performance During a 70-h Exposure to Noise Simulating the Space Station Environment

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Author: Abel, S.M. · Crabtree, B. · Baranski, J.V. · Smith, D.G. · Thompson, M.M. · Steeneken, H.J.M. · Verhave, J.A. · Buckey, J.C. · Alvarenga, D.L. · Comtois, J.M.
Institution: TNO Technische Menskunde
Source:Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine, 9, 75, 764 - 770
Identifier: 13299
Keywords: aviation Acoustics and Audiology Psychology · Space · Cognitive function · Hearing loss · Speech communication · Aerospace medicine · Auditory system · Cardiovascular function · Cognition · Interpersonal communication · Memory · Motivation · Noise · Speech · Atmosphere Exposure Chambers · Hearing · Noise · Psychoacoustics · Psychomotor Performance · Questionnaires · Space Flight · Space Simulation · Time Factors


Introduction: Elevated hearing thresholds have been documented in some astronauts after long-term spaceflights although noise levels were lower than those normally associated with noise-induced hearing loss in ground-based operations. The present study was conducted to determine whether prolonged exposure (70 h) to levels (72 dBA) recorded on the International Space Station (ISS) service module would impact diverse measures of auditory function, as well as cognition and memory, motivation, and cardiovascular function. Method: Five mixed gender subgroups of five normal-hearing subjects, aged 20 50 yr, were sequestered for 70 h in an environment that modeled conditions on the ISS. They were assigned to one of three background conditions: quiet (n 5), continuous noise from the ISS service module (n 10), or continuous noise during the day only (n 10). Subjects were tested repeatedly within and across days as individuals or pair mates. Results: There were no negative effects of the noise on any of the outcome measures. Introduction of a delay or noise in a communication channel used in the assessment of speech communicability significantly affected the time taken for joint problem solving by partners. Discussion: The results of this study were not consistent with the observation of hearing loss measured after spaceflights. Nor were changes evident in cognition, motivation, or cardiovascular function. Factors which might account for the discrepancy are discussed.