Background: Underground coal-mine workers suffer noise-induced hearing loss and continue working in the industry while having varying degrees of deafness. Few studies have researched the risk to safety arising from the loss of hearing. Aims: This study is designed to investigate the possible association between hearing loss and accidents in the New South Wales underground coal-mining industry. Methods: A study was conducted, gathering data over a 10-year period from 1994 to 2003, which identified 97 cases that have had accidents and 983 controls that have had no accidents. Hearing loss levels were noted and compared in the cases and controls. Multiple logistic regression was used to determine whether the variables were significant risk factors in the occurrence of accidents. Results: Hearing loss levels in the total cohort varied from 0 to 54%. The proportion of cases with hearing loss appeared to be significantly higher in the young age group of <29 years than in the controls, but was not significantly different in the older age groups. Conclusions: This study indicates that workers who have lost up to 54% binaural high tone hearing and are older than 29 years do not appear to have an increased risk to safety when compared with workers who do not have hearing loss. However, workers in the young age group of <29 years who have high tone hearing loss may be at an increased risk of accident.
Internal Medicine Journal Vol. 36, Issue 3, p. 180-184