Occupational hearing loss is the most common occupational disease in the United States. It affects all workers regardless of age, gender, or industrial sector. Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable and once acquired it is an irreversible disability. Hearing loss may cause professional and financial difficulties leading to social isolation and stigmatization. Agriculture work has been associated with a high prevalence of hearing loss, both in adults and youth. Farmworkers directly associated with intense field work and transport activities, are potentially at risk for developing hearing loss. METHODS: To determine, for the first time, the magnitude of the problem of hearing loss in farmworker populations, which could lead to the design of appropriate hearing conservation programs. This goal will be achieved thorough use of a valid, Spanish survey instrument that is economically and logistically practical for use in investigations of hearing ability in a disadvantaged population: Spanish -speaking farmworkers. A population based study of farmworkers (n = 448) will assess their hearing morbidity and their occupational risk factors based on interviews and audiometric testing. Data analysis will include demographics, work history, noise and pesticide exposures, self medication, and the Spanish version of the Hearing Ability Survey (HAS). The strength of associations between hearing loss risks factors will be evaluated as the crude and adjusted odds ratio (OR) and corresponding 95% corresponding confidence intervals. Significant factors will be used with logistic regression to predict hearing loss (z. 25db). EXPECTED OUTCOMES: Preventive strategies will be formulated for hearing conservation and prevention programs among Spanish speaking farmworkers based on this study. Occupational hazards associated with hearing loss and knowledge of the specific tasks encountered by these workers will be used to develop a plan of action to target interventions for this population. In addition, all participants in this study will receive information and education about personal protective equipment (PPE) and hearing loss and their perceptions regarding use of PPE will be assessed. CAREER DEVELOPMENT AWARD: The Principal Investigator (PI) will assess the prevalence of hearing loss among farm workers; develop a cost-effective means of evaluating hearing loss and to propose prevention strategies in a Spanish speaking farmworker population. PI will expand her competences and expertise in the areas of epidemiology, statistics and hearing conservation.
This research responds to the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) mixed exposures research agenda by addressing health concerns in agriculture under the sector-specific approach. And addresses under previous NORA research priority areas: Hearing loss under Disease and Injury; farm workers who are a special population underwork and Environment; and improved tracking of occupational diseases by the development of a valid bilingual instrument for estimating hearing loss of farm workers under Research Tools and Approaches. ? ? ?