KAMPALA — Makerere University researchers have called for a regular screening of industrial workers to limit occupational hearing loss.
The recommendations are contained in findings of a study conducted to assess the prevalence of occupational hearing loss among industrial workers.
The study, whose results show many of them are unknowingly affected involved upto 344 factory workers in Kampala Metropolitan area and tested using both the pure tune audiometer which is the gold standard and a smartphone based audiometry app named Wulira.
During a virtual research dissemination seminar, investigators revealed that upto 11% of the employees are in trouble of hearing difficulties.
Findings also show that people who had worked in noisy industries for more than two years, had more hearing difficulties than those that had been there for a period of six months and below.
Dr. Charles Batte, one of the lead investigators said they did not assess hearing abilities of individuals who had just joined the selected companies.
Br. Batte told reporters that their innovation, Wulira App has proved to be a useful pragmatic audiometry solution for under-served and vulnerable groups of patients at risk of hearing loss.
Batte added that the innovation can now be scaled up to detect hearing loss as it has shown in studies to give required efficacy.
The application which works just like the pure tone audiometer requires the user to have a mobile phone and earphones or headsets.
The app has a dashboard that has frequencies of different sounds that are used to analyze one’s hearing ability depending on how they react every time the sound on Wulira app is played.
Dr. Amina Seguya, an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) expert, said many of the patients who end up in hospital with serious hearing difficulties have a history of working in very noisy places.
She added that when asked if they ever screened, many say they did not know it was necessary.
“Currently, very few factories are screening for hearing loss and even those that are doing it are not doing it as regularly as the current policy. If we’re not screening, we shall not detect the people early and we’ll end up with bigger problems,” she said.
Screening is important because it helps identify the people that have a problem and get treated, she added.
The study recommends people who work in high noise places to screen at least twice every year.
Dr. Immaculate Atukunda said the study revealed that the burden of hearing loss among industria work was high.
“Over 1 in 4 of the workers was found to have hearing loss and 1 in 10 didn’t know that they actually had hearing loss,” she said, adding most of them only knew after they were tested.
Dr. Mariana Agaba, who heads the Occupational Health and Safety Department in the Ministry of Gender said the employer has a duty to protect all workers and general public from all hazards at the workplace and is expected to provide personal protective equipment.
She revealed that as Ministry, they have come up with a regulatory framework for industrial workers requiring them to have a policy statement that clearly stipulates that the nature of work they are engaged in does not danger both the workers and environment.
The study funded by the government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MAK RIF).