208947 Hearing Loss among Farmworkers: Perspectives and Prospects

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Martha S. Vela Acosta, MD, MS, PhD , The Kresge Foundation, Troy, MI
Background: Occupational hearing loss is the most common occupational disease in the United States. It affects all workers regardless of age, gender, or industrial sector. 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 the development of hearing loss.

Methods: Farmworkers in south Texas shared their perceptions about noise exposure and agricultural work. Hearing levels were measured using audiometric pure tone and calculating the sensitivity and specificity of the Hearing Ability Survey in Spanish.

Results: Farmworkers reported exposure to noise (e.g., machinery) and potentially toxic chemical exposures (e.g. pesticides) and lacking training about hearing conservation. Most farmworkers reported working in a noisy environment, and reported working in a noisy environment for over 6 years. Hearing loss (≥ 25dB average 500, 1000, 2000 Hz) was found in more than 25% of farmowrkers. This percentage of hearing loss increased when hearing loss was evaluated at higher frequencies (≥ 25dB average 4000, 8000 Hz). The average of the proportion of survey responses classified correctly was 70%, sensitivity was 46%, and specificity was 90%.

Conclusions: Addressing occupational health outcomes that permanently impair a socio-economic disadvantaged population is urgent. Hearing loss among underserved populations, particularly Spanish speaking farmworkers needs to be prevented rather than only documenting such health disparity.

Learning Objectives:
Discuss occupational and unique risks for vulnerable workers for chronic health outcomes among Spanish speaking migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

Keywords: Agricultural Work Safety, Latino Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Dr. Martha S. Vela Acosta has been dedicated her entire career to addressing the health of underserved communities, in support of disproportionately affected people with preventable and treatable conditions. As a physician and family practitioner she served urban and rural areas in Mexico, using preventive medicine programs were my means for addressing health disparities among vulnerable populations (1986-1993). Her advanced education (MS and PhD degrees) enhanced her applied research approach at various national agricultural health centers in the US, Mexico and other developing countries (1996-2007). Martha’ Outstanding Teaching Award (2004) represent her professional philosophy: to engage students’ learning with interactive approaches, such as discussing recent and relevant peer-reviewed publications along with a strong component of regional-oriented, field site visits to train students in assessing and applying classroom skills at the local level. Martha’s career goal has been to develop effective interventions supporting environments that allow healthy choices. As a Latina bilingual health professional, she served and enhanced partnerships among diverse agencies (such as health, education, government, and advocacy groups) and individuals (such as employers, workers, family members, and scientists). She is uniquely able to appreciate the complex issues associated with translation, adaptation, and cultural appropriateness that must be addressed to reach vulnerable populations with low literacy levels, regardless of their country of origin. Her ability to interconnect my scientific knowledge with professional colleagues and lay-persons from diverse occupational and cultural background has resulted in a cordial reception from these diverse communities. She design the research, conducted and teach about occupational health disparities particularly among Spanish speaking families.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.