When you think of occupational noise-induced hearing loss, you probably think of construction workers and military personnel. Other professionals at risk of this type of hearing loss include those working in the farming industry. We review the risk and how to keep your ears safe below.
How Does Loud Noise Cause Hearing Loss?
Within the cochlea, which is in the inner ear, are tiny hair cells called stereocilia. These hair cells convert incoming soundwaves into electrical energy that the brain interprets as sound. When dangerously loud sounds pass through the ears, it can damage or destroy these hair cells. This type of damage is permanent, and the result is sensorineural hearing loss. The threshold that is considered safe is 85 dB – about the volume of highway traffic. Anything louder can cause damage.
Why Are Farmers at Risk?
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. Hazardous noise levels may be produced by:
- Grain dryers
How Can Farmers Protect Their Hearing?
Farmers can protect their hearing with the following strategies:
- Wearing hearing protection. This is the best thing you can do to protect your hearing. You can purchase disposable foam earplugs from the drug store, earmuffs from a big box store or, for maximum comfort and protection, custom earplugs from North Alabama ENT Associates. Keep your hearing protection on hand or wherever you store your noisy equipment.
- Reducing sound levels. When purchasing new equipment, ask about the decibel outputs. Choose equipment with lower levels. Also keep in mind that open tractors, loaders and ATVs are better for your ears 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 noise, the greater your chance of damaging your ears. Try to reduce the amount of time you spend around noisy animals or equipment, or take listening breaks.