Farm and Rural Adolescents’ Perspective on Hearing Conservation: Reports from a Focus Group Study

Rosemberg, M. A. S., McCullagh, M. C., & Nordstrom, M. (2015). Farm and rural adolescents’ perspective on hearing conservation: Reports from a focus group study. Noise & health17(76), 134.


This study explored the attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of rural and farm adolescents regarding hearing conservation strategies. This qualitative study took place at two high schools in rural Michigan. Twenty-five adolescents living and working on farms or living in rural areas participated in one of two focus groups. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. Transcripts were coded and analyzed by two researchers and checked by an additional researcher to ensure reliability. Noise exposure was ubiquitous among participants, both in farm-related (e.g., equipment, livestock) and non-farm-related (e.g., music, firearms) activities. Perceived barriers to use of hearing protection devices outweighed perceived benefits, resulting in uncommon use of protection. When hearing protection was used, it was usually earmuffs or earplugs. Participants indicated a lack of training in noise hazards and protective strategies. Despite their acknowledged risk of hearing loss, participants did not associate their use of hearing protection today with their hearing ability later in life. Categories emerging that relate to hearing protector use included: Barriers, benefits, self-efficacy, situational influences, impersonal influences, cues to action, susceptibility, and severity. Farm and rural adolescents are at risk for noise exposure and hearing loss. The findings stress the significance of work environment and adult modeling in facilitating hearing conservation behaviors. As indicated by the youths’ recommendations, school-based interventions may be an effective approach to address this health concern. Intervention studies are needed to test various approaches that can effectively promote use of hearing conservation strategies among rural and farm adolescents.