PLoS One. 2023 Jan 6;18(1):e0279407. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0279407. eCollection 2023.
BACKGROUND: Occupational noise is a common cause of hearing loss in low-income countries. Unfortunately, screening for hearing loss is rarely done due to technical and logistical challenges associated with pure tone audiometry. Wulira app is a valid and potentially cost-effective alternative to pure tone audiometry in screening for occupational hearing loss. We aimed to determine the prevalence of occupational hearing loss among workers in a metal industry company in Kampala district.
METHODOLOGY: We recruited 354 participants conveniently from a steel and iron manufacturing industry in Kampala. All eligible participants answered a pretested and validated questionnaire and were assessed for noise induced hearing loss in a quiet office room approximately 500 meters from the heavy machinery area using the Wulira app. Descriptive statistics such as proportions were used to describe the study population while inferential statistics were used to determine associations.
RESULTS: Of the 354 participants sampled, 333 (94.1%) were male, and the median age was 27, IQR (25-30). Regarding the risk factors of hearing loss, fourteen (3.9%) had history of smoking and more than half (65.5%) had worked in the industry for more than 2 years. The overall prevalence of hearing loss among industrial workers was 11.3% (40/354). 16.2% and 9% had mild hearing loss in the right and left ear respectively. Bilateral audiometric notch was present where fourteen (4%) of the participants had notch in their right ear while seven (2%) had notch in their left ear. Residing outside Kampala district was associated with hearing loss (OR, 95% CI, 0.213 (0.063-0.725), p = 0.013).
CONCLUSION: One in 10 workers in a metal manufacturing industry in Kampala had occupational hearing loss. Industrial workers residing outside Kampala were likely to develop hearing loss. Periodic screening should be done for early detection and intervention to prevent progression of hearing loss in this population.