What is the efficacy of a hearing conservation program in changing acoustic risk taking and hearing conservation behaviors in elementary school children?
Background: Approximately 30 million North Americans have speech-frequency hearing loss, and its prevalence among young adults is growing. In early years, hearing loss can affect a child’s ability to differentiate between consonant sounds, adversely affecting ability to learn. Elementary school children have been shown to lack knowledge regarding hearing and the effects of noise exposure.
Study design: Prospective, randomized, mixed design controlled study
Setting: University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.
Synopsis: Personal music player habits and exposure to excessive noise was studied in 846 sixth grade students from 16 Vancouver School Board schools. At baseline and following a hearing conservation program titled Sound Sense, researchers measured differences between the control group (no intervention) and Sound Sense students at baseline, two weeks and six months. The program consisted of a 10-minute video and a 45-minute interactive session delivered by trained personnel, who educated the students about the hearing mechanism, ear anatomy, etiology, signs and consequences of noise-induced hearing loss and hearing conservation practices. Students received earplugs and stickers.
At baseline, 5.5 percent of the children reported some degree of hearing loss. Use of a personal listening music device was reported by 66.8 percent, with listening times ranging from less than 15 minutes per day to more than two hours. Most used earphones. The intervention showed a statistically significant effect for long-term earplug use at dances, rock concerts, with percussion musical instruments and electric guitars and to protect hearing from other noises, such as power lawn mowers.
Bottom line: A hearing conservation program has the potential to improve attitudes toward using ear protection and can result in behavioral modification that reduces exposure to damaging noise.
Citation: Neufeld A, Westerberg BD, Nabi S, et al. Prospective, randomized controlled assessment of the short- and long-term efficacy of a hearing conservation education program in Canadian elementary school children. Laryngoscope. 2011;121:176-181.
—Reviewed by Sue Pondrom