Study by Dr. McCullagh Shows Factory Workers Unaware of Hearing Loss

Three out of four factory workers surveyed reported good hearing, yet nearly half were found to have hearing loss.
Dr. Marjorie McCullaghA recent study conducted by UMSN Assistant Professor Dr. Marjorie McCullagh has found a significant difference between measured and perceived hearing loss among factory workers. Of 2,691 automobile factory workers surveyed for the study, 76% reported their hearing ability as excellent or good. However, researchers determined that 42% of the noise-exposed workers actually had hearing loss, indicating that self-reported hearing loss was poorly related to the results of audiometry.
The data supporting these findings were collected as part of an intervention study promoting hearing protector use among workers at an automotive factory in the Midwest. Dr. McCullagh served as principal investigator for the project. Dr. Delbert Raymond of Eastern Michigan University School of Nursing, Dr. Madeline Kerr of University of Minnesota School of Nursing, and Dr. Sally Lusk of UMSN also collaborated on the study.
Hearing loss proved highly prevalent among the workers despite the fact that the workers were employed in a regulated environment and served by a hearing conservation program. These findings are consistent with other studies demonstrating a discrepancy between measured and perceived hearing loss. Noise represents one the nation’s most common occupational health hazards.
“This finding shows that even workers who are served by a workplace hearing conservation program and receive annual hearing testing may be unaware of their actual hearing ability,” commented Dr. McCullagh. “Consequently, health care providers would be wise to examine methods to help workers develop more accurate perceptions of their hearing, and test more effective methods to protect it.”