The aim of this study, which was performed in the framework of the European project EMFnEAR, was to investigate the potential effects of Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS, also known as 3G) exposure at a high specific absorption rate (SAR) on the human auditory system. Participants were healthy young adults with no hearing or ear disorders. Auditory function was assessed immediately before and after exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation, and only the exposed ear was tested. Tests for the assessment of auditory function were hearing threshold level (HTL), distortion product otoacoustic emissions (DPOAE), contralateral suppression of transiently evoked otoacoustic emission (CAS effect on TEOAE), and auditory evoked potentials (AEP). The exposure consisted of speech at a typical conversational level delivered via an earphone to one ear, plus genuine or sham RF-radiation exposure obtained by an exposure system based on a patch antenna and controlled by software. Results from 73 participants did not show any consistent pattern of effects on the auditory system after a 20-min UMTS exposure at 1947 MHz at a maximum SAR over 1 g of 1.75 W/kg at a position equivalent to the cochlea. Analysis entailed a double-blind comparison of genuine and sham exposure. It is concluded that short-term UMTS exposure at this relatively high SAR does not cause measurable immediate effects on the human auditory system.
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