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Project Report

Improving hearing health for farming families

Submitted: 23 October 2009
Revised: 16 December 2009
Published: 24 February 2010

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Author(s) : Lower T, Fragar L, Depcynzksi J, Challinor K, Mills J, Williams W.

Tony LowerLyn FragarJulie DepcynzksiKathy ChallinorJan MillsWarwick Williams

Citation: Lower T, Fragar L, Depcynzksi J, Challinor K, Mills J, Williams W.  Improving hearing health for farming families. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1350. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=1350 (Accessed 17 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Occupational noise injury and hearing loss are common features of agricultural workforces internationally. Farmsafe Australia has identified hearing health as one of its 4 key priority goals and targets. Currently, approximately 60–70% of Australian farmers have measurable hearing loss, compared with 27% of those in the general Australian community. This article describes the findings of a community based demonstration project to address hearing health issues conducted in the Australian state of New South Wales. This program sought to implement local demonstration projects in 3 communities to identify what works well in hearing health promotion with farmers and what could be applied more broadly throughout Australia.
Methods:  Local advisory groups were established in each community to guide project development and implementation. Project implementation focused on 3 major aspects: (1) increasing awareness of priority noise injury prevention and hearing health practices; (2) improving access to hearing health services; and (3) networking services in local communities. Area-specific training was undertaken for stakeholders to maximize local information links. Service utilization data were monitored and analysed.
Results:  There was variability among sites; however in general there was an increased awareness of hearing health issues by farming families and expanded opportunities for farmers to access screening services. Utilization rates of hearing services also increased markedly in one community. Local hearing health networks were strengthened by linkages to key stakeholders outside the health sector. Previously unidentified methods of promoting hearing health (eg using agricultural retail outlets that supply hearing protection equipment and are accepted by farmers as an information source) were identified and utilized.
Conclusions: Hearing health promotion with farmers in local communities can be enhanced through utilization and strengthening of local networks. Integration of hearing health initiatives with other agencies already working with farming families will be important in developing and enhancing long-term sustainable outcomes. Continued work at a national level to assist in stimulating local action will be required to build on the potential gains in reducing noise injury in the farming community.

Key words:  agriculture, Australia, farming, hearing health, noise injury.

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