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Hearing Screening Program Impact on Noise Reduction Strategies

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Journal of Agricultural Safety and Health. 15(2): 119-127. (doi: 10.13031/2013.26799) @2009
Authors:   D. C. Voaklander, R. C. Franklin, K. Challinor, J. Depczynski, L. J. Fragar
Keywords:   Agricultural, Farmers, Farm safety, Hearing health, Noise abatement, Noise injury, Program evaluation

The objective of this study was to determine the impact of the New South Wales Rural Hearing Conservation Program on the implementation of personal hearing protection (PHP) and noise management strategies among farmers who had participated in this program in New South Wales, Australia. A follow-up survey of a random sample of people screened through the New South Wales Rural Hearing Conservation Program was linked to their baseline data. The use of PHP at baseline was compared to use at follow-up in four specific scenarios: use with non-cabbed tractors, with chainsaws, with firearms, and in workshops. For non-cabbed tractors, the net gain in PHP use was 13.3%; the net gain was 20.8% for chainsaws, 6.7% for firearms, and 21.3% for workshops. Older farmers and those with a family history of hearing loss were less likely to maintain or improve PHP use. Those with severe hearing loss, males, and participants reporting hearing problems in situations where background noise was present were more likely to maintain or improve PHP use. Forty-one percent of farmers had initiated other strategies to reduce noise exposure beyond the use of PHP, which included engineering, maintenance, and noise avoidance solutions. The early (hopefully) identification of hearing deficit in farmers and farm workers can help promote behavior change and help reinforce a farm culture that supports hearing conservation. The continuation and expansion of hearing screening programs such as these should be encouraged as basic public health strategy in farming communities.

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