Public Health Practice –Dr. Chandran Achutan in the department of Environmental, Agricultural and Occupational Health is hoping that the Nebraska farming community is listening carefully to his message. Dr. Achutan is spreading the word about the importance of using hearing protection to a group vulnerable to hearing loss – farmers. Educating farmers about the causes and prevention of hearing loss is just one part of a four-year study funded by the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health with the goal of reducing occupational hearing loss among workers in the agricultural sector.
Dr. Achutan’s research team works directly with each farm family, identifying high noise exposure tasks and the source of the noise. Team members then work with the farmers to identify solutions to reduce the noise source. Each study participant receives a yearly hearing test. Preliminary hearing tests identified pre-existing hearing loss in many of the participants. Participants filled out a medical history and a questionnaire related to their beliefs and opinions about wearing hearing protectors. Responses to the questionnaire have demonstrated a lack of knowledge regarding hazards related to noise exposures. At the intervention farms, weatherproof boxes were installed that hold ear muffs and earplugs in all areas where farmers are exposed to loud noise. The boxes were designed and developed by researchers with input from a local company. Farmers have expressed satisfaction with the ease of accessibility for hearing protection devices.
All of the farm families in the study benefit from receiving educational materials and training on how to properly use hearing protection. Each participant is now aware of tasks that may damage their hearing and the sources of noise on their farm. At the end of the four-year study Dr. Achutan will determine whether farmers that had hearing protection storage boxes installed at the source of the noise have lower rates of hearing loss compared to the farms that did not have the protection readily available. Dr. Achutan hopes that his research will allow every farmer in Nebraska to be able to hear his message loud and clear.
This article was written by Ellen Duysen, MPH, CS-CASH Coordinator.