What professions do you think of when you hear the term “occupational hearing loss”? Many think of construction workers and military personnel. Other professionals at risk of this type of hearing loss are farmers. In fact, according to one study, farmers are frequently exposed to excessive noise, ranking among the top three occupations and industries with the highest risk for hearing loss.
How Does Loud Noise Cause Damage?
The inner ear contains the cochlea, a snail-shaped organ lined with tiny hair cells called stereocilia. The stereocilia are responsible for converting soundwaves into electrical impulses that travel to the brain via the auditory nerve to be interpreted as sound.
When dangerously loud sounds pass through the ears, that is anything over 85 dB, it can damage or destroy the stereocilia. For reference, 85 dB is about the volume of passing highway traffic. Once damaged, these cells do not regenerate, and permanent sensorineural hearing loss is the result.
Why Are Farmers at Risk?
A lot of farming equipment and livestock can produce sounds well over the 85 dB threshold – what is considered safe – including:
- Grain dryers
How Can Farmers Protect Their Hearing?
Farmers can employ the following strategies to protect their hearing.
Wearing Hearing Protection
The best way to protect your hearing is to wear hearing protection. This can take many forms, such as:
- Disposable foam earplugs from the drugstore
- Protective earmuffs from a big box store or the internet
- Custom-fit earplugs from Bountiful Hearing Center
You should keep your hearing protection on hand or store it next to your noisy equipment for convenience and ease of use.
Reducing Sound Levels
When you go to purchase new equipment, ask about the decibel outputs, and choose quieter options. Also, you should keep in mind that open tractors, loaders and ATVs are quieter than enclosed motorized equipment.
Performing Routine Maintenance
Fixing mufflers, lubricating bearings and replacing worn parts can reduce noise levels.
Limiting Daily Noise Exposure
The longer you’re exposed to loud noises, the greater the extent the damage to your ears. Try to limit the amount of time you’re exposed to loud noises, or at least take listening breaks.