University of Michigan (U-M) investigators determined in a new study conducted on factory workers that even those who thought they have perfect hearing may in fact suffer from hearing loss or similar impairments. These conclusions help explain why so few sufferers seek treatment for their conditions.
Researchers revealed that more than 42 percent of respondents in their study were unaware of the fact that they suffered from impaired hearing. When asked to rate themselves, they said that they either have good, or excellent hearing, when this was definitely not the case.
When investigating measured and perceived hearing loss, experts at the U-M School of Nursing found significant differences between the two. This suggests that doctors would do well to conduct periodic check-ups on their patients, in order to ensure this degenerative condition does not set in.
The team surveyed some 2,691 automobile factory workers, who are exposed to loud noises daily. Of the test group, 76 percent reported excellent or good hearing. However, formal hearing tests revealed that 42 percent of test subjects in fact suffered from hearing loss.
“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,” scientist Marjorie McCullagh explains.
“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,” adds the expert, the principal investigator on the new study, and an assistant professor in the U-M School of Nursing.
What is even more worrying is that the results of this research are in line with the conclusions of previous studies, suggesting a similar discrepancy in results between real and perceived hearing loss.
Another important implication of the study is that even regulated work environments and the presence of a hearing conservation program cannot prevent workers from suffering damage. Hearing protectors should definitely be worn at all times by people in high-noise environments, the researchers say.
Details of the new investigation were published in the latest issue of the journal of Noise and Health.
Hearing impairments are extremely difficult to treat. Furthermore, they tend to degenerate quickly, if the source of the problem is not removed. But people are unlikely to take these necessary steps, since they don't even know they have a problem. Better preemption methods appear to be the best solution.