Effectiveness of a Digital Graphic Novella in Prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss in Spanish-speaking Agricultural Workers

Mark Guiberson

Sketch novellaDigital novella

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is one of the most commonly reported work-related illnesses in the United States. NIHL is a large problem in agricultural settings because of noise produced by animals and farm equipment. In the Mountain-west region, the number of Spanish-speaking agricultural workers is substantial. A number of these workers have basic to early literacy skills, and therefore typically receive less access to healthcare information, which may lead to a greater risk for occupational hazards like NIHL.

Current trends show that Spanish-speaking populations are beginning to rely on digital media for access to health information. Furthermore, research on hearing conservation has shown that computer based interventions can be more effective than print based interventions. Healthcare information delivered in Spanish through digital media including iPads and YouTube may lead to significant improvements in the hearing health of Spanish-speaking agricultural workers.

Dr. Mark Guiberson, Associate Professor, and a multidisciplinary group of professionals are launching an innovative study that will begin addressing NIHL with Spanish-speaking agricultural workers. The research team includes Emily Wakefield (industrial audiologist), David Lauman (20/20 Translations), Sam Cooper Graphic Design, and Karlee Heitman and Mikala McCool (student research assistants). The purpose of this study is to test the use of a digital graphic novella in educating Spanish-speaking agricultural workers who are at risk for acquiring NIHL. The research team is interested in how the digital graphic novella will influence beliefs and behaviors regarding hearing loss and hearing protection. The digital graphic novella, Más vale usar protectores auditivos (It’s worth it to use hearing protection) utilizes characters, dialogue, and illustrations to teach about noise and hearing protection in agricultural settings. Before and after viewing the graphic novella on an iPad, participants in farm regions of Wyoming and Colorado will respond to questions about the use and perceived value of hearing protection.

This approach to health education represents a shift in current practices, from a written format to a digital approach. It is hoped that data from this research project will be used as part of future grant initiatives evaluating the use of digital technology for health education and prevention programs with Spanish-speaking communities. The current study was funded by the High Plains Intermountain Center for Agricultural Health and Safety (HICAHS).