Original Research

Noise-induced hearing loss and hearing protection: Attitudes at a South African coal mine

Kavitha Naicker
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 71, No 1 | a966 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v71i1.966 | © 2024 Kavitha Naicker | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 February 2023 | Published: 17 January 2024

About the author(s)

Kavitha Naicker, School of Health Systems and Public Health, Faculty of Public Health, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Negative attitudes and beliefs are major contributing factors to the rising numbers of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) cases in coal mines both locally and internationally. International literature confirms limited knowledge surrounding employees’ attitudes and beliefs regarding NIHL and hearing protection devices (HPDs), hence the need for the study.

Objectives: To ascertain the attitudes and beliefs about NIHL and HPD use among employees at a large scale underground coal mine in Mpumalanga.

Method: A descriptive and exploratory cross-sectional study was conducted using a self-administered questionnaire, developed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) on Beliefs about Hearing Protection and Hearing Loss (BHPHL). Participants (n = 241) included employees from a coal mine in Mpumalanga, South Africa.

Results: Out of 241 completed surveys, this study found that 84% were aware of when to replace earmuffs; 95% believed wearing HPDs could prevent hearing loss in noisy environments; 83% felt their hearing was impacted by loud noise. Additionally, 86% mentioned discomfort from earmuff pressure; 95% emphasised HPD importance; and 95% used HPDs around loud sounds. Moreover, 98% knew how to properly wear earplugs, while lower education levels were linked to higher susceptibility to NIHL.

Conclusion: The study identified positive attitudes towards NIHL and HPD use, but existing NIHL cases must be acknowledged. Organisations can use the findings to develop tailored hearing conservation programmes (HCP), including education, involving employees in protection decisions and promoting diligent HPD usage.

Contribution: This study contributes to the limited literature on noise perceptions, NIHL, and HPD use in mining, emphasising the impact attitude has on HPD use and assessing the effect of miners NIHL knowledge on compliance. The findings, unique to coal mining, hold significance for enhancing hearing conservation and reducing NIHL.


Keywords

noise; noise-induced hearing loss; hearing protection devices; attitudes; beliefs

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