A group of 56 monks participated in a study of noise exposure and hearing. The monks lived at a Cistercian monastery in Kentucky and spent most of their time in quiet environments. Each monk was administered a one page questionnaire, consisting of personal information, work and hobbies, noise exposure, and medical history related to hearing, use of medicines, and past diseases. A battery of audiometric tests was administered to each monk, and sound level measurements were taken in work, study, worship, and living areas. In most of the occupational areas, the monks were apparently not exposed to excessive noise. The laundry, dairy, cheese processing, kitchen, bakery, and printing areas were characterized by low noise sources ranging from 64 to 88 decibels-A (dBA). Monks rarely spent more than 4 hours a day in these areas. Higher noise exposures occurred in the carpentry, machine, and woodworking shops and in certain outdoor operations requiring the use of a riding mower or jackhammer. The major living, eating, sleeping, medical care, and worship areas had sound levels ranging from 33 to 42dBA. The results indicated a great degree of noise sheltering. Seven monks had medically related hearing loss. Of the remaining 49, air conduction audiometric tests revealed that 71.4% had better than normal hearing, and that the average age adjusted hearing loss at 4000 hertz was 5.5 decibels less than normal.
Proceedings, 1989 Industrial Hearing Conservation Conference, April 12-14, 1989, College of Engineering, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, and NIOSH