Use of hearing aids at work: results of a questionnaire for the analysis of comfort and perceived benefit
Authors: Claudia Giliberti, Fabio Lo Castro, Maria Patrizia Orlando, Raffaele Mariconte, Maurizio Diano
Abstract: Almost 460 million world people live with moderate to severe hearing loss (HL), with noise the most common cause, particularly in the workplace. Noise-induced HL is still one of the most prevalent recognized occupational diseases, but in Italy, it is no longer at the first ranks, thanks to technical and organizational solutions adopted to reduce noise in the work environment after 2008. In particular, Italian surveillance system data show that Construction is the work sector in which HL is most present (28% of cases), followed by Manufacture (17%). HL can compromise social life, causing isolation, frustration, depression, and even cognitive decline, while in the workplaces could affect workers’ safety, representing an important injury risk factor. The use of hearing aids (HA) represents an effective preventive action. In Italy, there are at least 7 million hearing-impaired people, but only 29.5% wear an HA (2018 data). Their use appears to be more widespread in the older age groups, while the least use is found from 45 to 64 years (20.8%) which refers to professionally active people. Many aspects prevent the use of an HA, among these, technical and psychological reasons. The objective of this study is to evaluate the degree of comfort/discomfort and the perceived benefit of using an HA, particularly in working environments.MethodsAn ad hoc questionnaire consisting of 10 questions, five on the working sphere and five on perception, was developed. The former investigated the acoustic comfort of the work environment, use of HA, hearing protectors, accessories, and the information received on the correct use of HA at work; the second investigated the satisfaction of the prosthetic solution, the improvement in the perception of speech or the sounds direction and danger signals to avoid accidents at work. The answer options for each question were yes / sometimes / no. Further information on gender, age, type of job, years of work, type of HA and years of use, type of hearing damage, was collected. The professions were grouped into seven categories: construction workers, freelancers, health professions, teachers, office workers, traders, others, which were further classified on noise exposure and hearing risk into High risk (construction workers), Medium risk (teachers, traders), Low risk (freelancers, health professions, office workers). The results were statistically analyzed.ResultsThe questionnaire was administered to 141 workers (55 females and 86 males) with an average age of 57 years (minimum 21, maximum 82). The sample shows prevalently bilateral sensorineural HL, works for about 30 years, wears an HA from 6 years, mainly “in the ear” type (77%), mostly employed as freelancers (21%), office workers (19%), construction workers (18%).For high-risk employees, the use of an HA with personal protective equipment has been discussed, taking into account the issue regarding the protection of these prosthetic workers in noisy work environments. The results show that special attention should be paid to the optimization of the prosthesis for this category of workers, most acoustically exposed, taking into account their comfort, perceived safety, and satisfaction.
Keywords: Hearing loss, workplace, questionnaire, acoustic comfort, acoustic prosthesis
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