Farmers are often located in rural, isolated environments. Therefore their access to information and services concerning hearing loss prevention is geographically restricted. One approach that has proven successful in reaching farm families is to make information and services available at state and county fairs, regional farm shows, and health screenings sponsored by farm agencies, medical clinics, universities, and hospitals.
One successful U.S. outreach program was held at the Farm Progress Show over a 10-year period. This show attracted over 250,000 annually during the 3-day event. The primary attraction for farmers included the equipment manufacturers, seed companies, chemical producers, university agricultural school displays, and various demonstration plots. However, coordinated efforts by health and safety professionals allowed for respiratory, blood pressure, cholesterol, vision, skin, and hearing assessments. Mobile audiometric testing facilities made the hearing assessments personal, convenient, efficient, and valid. It also afforded the opportunity to distribute sample hearing protectors, hearing loss prevention literature, and hearing test results. Farm family members were immediately counseled regarding their hearing status and advised of any referrals for medical and/or rehabilitative hearing services. One additional outcome of this particular intervention program was the enhanced usage of hearing protectors as documented by Pytko (24). When male participants were surveyed one year after the farm show intervention program, the utilization of HPDs had increased from 37% to 73% (6,24).
Another intervention approach has been used in Canada. Hearing loss prevention literature was mailed to farmers in rural areas in Saskatchewan. For those who inquired, hearing tests were subsequently provided at a local community site. During the hearing test appointments, health professionals were able to provide additional information about noise exposure, hearing loss prevention strategies, and the proper use of hearing protectors (25).
Two other recent approaches designed to disseminate hearing loss prevention information include the farm safety camp and the Internet. Farm safety camps are designed to reach farm youth. Hearing safety can be one of the many sessions offered during these interactive camps, and it can be formatted into an entertaining, game activity. Certainly the Internet affords the farming community with new and ever-changing opportunities to access educational materials and health information. As with most internet topics, the reliability, validity, and continuity of these hearing loss prevention materials are varied. The National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) website (www.hearingconservation.org) offers professional educational opportunities and a variety of resources for hearing loss prevention efforts (26).
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