Are lab workers at risk of hearing loss?

Friday, 06 March, 2015

One in six Australians are said to experience some kind of auditory loss, and The University of Queensland (UQ) wants to know if chemicals in the workplace are to blame.

Dr Adrian Fuente, from the university’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, stated, “While much is known about the dangers of noise exposure in the workplace, the public is often unaware of the role that certain chemicals can play in causing early hearing loss.”

Now, Dr Fuente is leading a study to identify the most effective hearing tests to detect problems caused by chemical exposure and the safe levels of exposure to maintain healthy hearing at work. He noted, “There is still not enough understanding of which levels of chemical exposure are safe for our ears.”

Dr Fuente said employees in certain industries are more at risk than others, including painters, spray-painters, those working in textile, clothing and footwear factories, and aviation and lab workers. Such employees are therefore invited to participate in the research, which will involve a series of non-invasive procedures to test their hearing.

“Hearing loss is relevant to many Australians and it affects not just the individual, but also their family, friends and co-workers,” Dr Fuente said.

“It can also cause isolation, including avoidance of social situations, problems communicating at work and miscommunication at home.

“I encourage people working in these industries to participate in this vital research, the outcomes of which could have a definitive impact on the Australian workplace in the pursuit of healthy hearing for all.”

Those interested in participating in the study should contact Laura Sheridan by emailing l.sheridan@uq.edu.au or calling (07) 3346 7489.

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