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UNC Group Joins Multi-University Effort to Establish Hearing Conservation Program in Guatemala

UNC grad students place dosimeters on sugar mill workers to measure sound levels

January 10, 2018

Above: UNC graduate students Jennifer Ruths (left) and Ashley Stumpf place dosimeters on workers to measure sound levels at a sugar mill in Guatemala. 

A group of faculty and students led by University of Northern Colorado Professor Deanna Meinke implemented a hearing conservation program at a sugar mill in Guatemala last month.

Meinke, UNC graduate students Jennifer Ruths and Ashley Stumpf, and Colorado State University graduate student Grant Erlandson spent a week in Guatemala to teach about the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. The effort included implementing best practices in the hearing conservation program at the work site of the Pantaleon sugar mill.

At the site, the group performed over 50 noise dosimetry measurements of sound exposure on workers and taught a four-day Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation certification course to doctors and nurses from Mexico, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. 

“The mill workers were wearing hearing protection well from observation,” Meinke said. “In the future, we will help the plant set up annual hearing tests for the workers and perhaps be able to test how well the earplugs are fitting/attenuating the noise and if they are sufficient for the noise levels that we measured this time. 

“The first effort was to identify who needs to be enrolled in the Hearing Loss Prevention Program at the plant (noise measurement, noise control, annual hearing tests, hearing protection use, training).

Lee Newman, director of the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the University of Colorado, invited Meinke and her students to collaborate on the project. He’s collaborating on several other projects to improve worker health, including efforts to improve the health, nutrition and water quality for sugar cane workers.  

“This truly was a multi-university effort that brought together students from audiology, industrial hygiene and public health,” Meinke said.

Team on site at sugar mill in Guatemala.
Members of the team that traveled to Guatemala pose with workers at the Pantaleon sugar mill. From to right to left: Ashley Stumpf, Jennifer Ruths, Grant Erlandson, and Deanna Meinke. Photo courtesy Deanna Meinke.

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