Professor Presents Findings from Noise Research

UNC Associate Professor Deanna Meinke will share research results (see below) involving noise exposure measurements of tree service workers during the 2010 Greeley Winter Tree Care Workshop, 11:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 19, at Island Grove Events Center, 421 15th Ave.

Meinke will present results on behalf of Audiology graduate student Thea LaBere, who spent last summer taking noise measurements of tree service workers. LaBere is currently participating in a clinic and can't attend Friday's presentation, which will focus on educating the group about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss, hearing protection and employer responsibilities.

In addition, UNC Audiology students, under the supervision of clinical faculty member Sonie Harris, will provide free hearing tests to attendees. The hearing tests will help detect noise-induced hearing loss and provide an opportunity to educate and intervene as soon as possible.

For more information about the workshop, download the schedule.

Highlights of the Research
- The research concluded that urban tree service workers are exposed to noise levels that exceed OSHA standards and NIOSH criteria and workers are at risk for occupational noise induced hearing loss (recommend protection at 85 dBA).
- 20 men ages 21-57 from seven employers participated in the study last summer. Their length of service ranged from one month to 28 years.
- Research found that 95 percent of workers (19) worked in conditions that exceed either OSHA and/or NIOSH limits for on-the-job noise exposure.
- Using a noise dosimeter to measure exposure in working conditions, research showed that ear protection should be used when operating chainsaws, chippers, stump grinders, leaf blowers, water trucks, rotochoppers, tractors, brush/weed trimmers.
- Workers ranked chippers (measured at 112-119 dBA) as emitting the loudest noise. Noise exposures above 115 dBA are not permitted by OSHA.
- Eighty percent routinely wore hearing protection of earplugs, earmuffs or combination earplug/earmuff. Recommendation to wear both earplugs and earmuffs when dBA is 100 or greater (operating leaf blowers, chippers, chainsaws.)
- Three of the seven employers had components of hearing loss prevention programs, but only one had a comprehensive hearing conservation program as required by OSHA. It appears that many employers and employees may not be fully aware of the risk of noise-induced hearing loss in this industry and the best ways to prevent it.