Original Research - Special Collection: Occupational Hearing Loss in Africa

Risk versus benefit: Should not audiologists assess this in the context of occupational noise-induced hearing loss in the mining industry?

Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Nomfundo F. Moroe
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 67, No 2 | a671 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v67i2.671 | © 2020 Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Nomfundo F. Moroe | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 August 2019 | Published: 03 March 2020

About the author(s)

Katijah Khoza-Shangase, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Nomfundo F. Moroe, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Background: Hearing conservation programmes (HCPs) are an important aspect of occupational health efforts to prevent occupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL). In low- and middle income (LAMI) countries, where the incidence of ONIHL is significant, it is important to deliberate on the risk or benefit of HCPs.

Objectives: This article is an attempt at highlighting important strategic indicators as well as important variables that the occupational health and audiology community need to consider to plan efficacious HCPs within the South African mining context.

Method: The current arguments are presented in the form of a viewpoint publication.

Results: Occupational audiology vigilance in the form of engagement with HCPs in the mining industry has been limited within the South African research and clinical communities. When occupational audiology occurs, it is conducted by mid-level workers and paraprofessionals; and it is non-systematic, non-comprehensive and non-strategic. This is compounded by the current, unclear externally enforced accountability by several bodies, including the mining industry regulating body, with silent and/or peripheral regulation by the Health Professions Council of South Africa and the Department of Health. The lack of involvement of audiologists in the risk or benefit evaluation of HCPs during their development and monitoring process, as well as their limited involvement in the development of policies and regulations concerning ear health and safety within this population are probable reasons for this.

Conclusions: Increased functioning of the regulatory body towards making the employers accountable for the elimination of ONIHL, and a more central and prominent role for audiologists in HCPs, are strongly argued for.


Keywords

Occupational noise-induced hearing loss; Monitoring protocol; Risk; Benefit; Conservation; Vigilance

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