Fishermen are exposed to constant industrial noise around the clock when working at sea, often for 10 days at a time. 197 workers with no previous history of hearing damage on fishing vessels from Mar del Plata, Argentina, participated in the study.
The study examined the hearing health of various groups of workers on the fishing vessels. The fishermen were generally found to suffer from moderate hearing loss due to the noise exposure, mainly affecting speech frequencies.
Engine operators more at risk
Engine operators and sailors were the two groups of fishermen most affected.
Noise levels in a 24 hour working environment, as occurs in fishing vessels, should not exceed 80 dB. But engine operators were found to be exposed to noise levels ranging between 88 dB and 108 dB. This group suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus, as well as sleeping disorder, headaches and stress, in spite of all of them using hearing protection. Sailors, on the other hand, were found to be exposed to up to 84 dB daily, also surpassing the maximum recommended noise levels.
Time of exposure
Time of exposure was the main reason for hearing loss induced by noise. “Fishermen’s hearing is affected by workday noise exposure, with time of exposure rather than noise intensity as the predominant factor”, explained Julieta Cáceres, one of the researchers behind the study.
On a fishing vessel, time of exposure cannot be reduced, but the researchers called for special measures to reduce noise intensity. In addition, they urged that the workers receive training in hearing health and noise exposure awareness, that they be given regular hearing screening and long term monitoring in order to prevent and treat hearing loss induced by the noise.