SC State Research Aims to Reduce Health Risks for Rural SC Farmers

Dr. Demarcus Bush, Principal Investigator

SC State’s Speech Pathology and Audiology Program is conducting an extensive research project that seeks to educate rural farmers in South Carolina about the risks that are associated with loud noises on their farms. Dr. Demarcus Bush, audiologist, assistant professor of audiology and principal investigator of the project, has been awarded $500,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, (USDA-NIFA) in partnership with SC State’s 1890 Research and Extension Program, to complete field research.

The program strives to promote the use of hearing protection, in hopes of making agricultural work more conducive to a healthy lifestyle.

The study is expected to illustrate a strong correlation between high noise levels that farmers are exposed to, the hearing loss that occurs as a result of this phenomenon and other related issues that are linked to hearing loss, specifically an increase in heart-rate.

Implications from previous studies state that high noise levels increase stress, which can lead to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Uncontrolled high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause damage to the arteries and lead to a stroke and cardiovascular disease. Injuries to the brain, caused by these diseases, can result in the need for cognitive and speech retraining.

Bush said he is extremely appreciative of the resources the Speech Pathology & Audiology Program has been given to execute the research and hopes to help make farming much safer for southern farmers.

“Because SC State University has a rich history in agriculture, I am delighted and grateful that this opportunity affords the Speech Pathology and Audiology Program a chance to increase the agricultural community’s knowledge of hearing health and offer better, safer methods that pose less health risks,” Bush said.

Bush and his team have been conducting insightful interviews with farmers, which they hope will offer a better understanding of the farmers’ current use of hearing protection while operating equipment, and ways to improve upon that usage. Researchers also provide hearing protection devices to participants and educate them on the proper use of the devices.

According to Bush, many farmers, especially in rural areas where resources tend to be limited, can easily become accustomed to working in conditions that heighten these health risks. SC State’s Speech Pathology & Audiology Program is optimistic about changing the stance on unhealthy customs in the world of agriculture.

“I would like to transform risky agricultural attitudes that are often embodied in rural South Carolina, as many people have been misinformed about hearing healthcare,” Bush said.

“These men and women work hard to supply our communities with food and other commodities. It is an honor to assist in providing them the best hearing healthcare experience possible to positively impact their agricultural careers,” he continued.

With the awarded funds, researchers will utilize the Hearing Mobile Van to provide specialized services to agriculture professionals, as it travels to various South Carolina counties.

Additionally, there will be segments of studies that focus solely on African American farmers, as research has shown that this group is at an even greater risk of developing high blood pressure. The project will address health disparities that exist among African Americans and other ethnicities and populations. The program also hopes that the project will result in more access to educational materials and supplies for its progression, and intends to foster more exposure for SC State University.

For more information about the research project or the Speech Pathology & Audiology Program, contact Dr. Demarcus Bush at (803) 536-8594 or dbush4@scsu.edu.

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