An estimated one-third farmers have some level of hearing loss caused by their inner ears’ daily bombardment from sounds that can rival a rock concert’s impact. Even farmers still in their 20s can end up with the muffled hearing of someone in middle age if they fail to protect their hearing.
“You just can’t get away from the machinery. We’re driving tractors and they’re loud,” said Tom a 55-year-old dairy farmer with partial hearing loss he attributes to farm noises he was exposed to in his youth.
Design changes in farm machinery, such as tractors, has made some equipment run quieter, but many still use older, noisier models. And livestock — such as pigs and chickens — still produce the same cacophony of noises; a squealing pig, for example, can be as loud as a running chainsaw.
“That was just normal when you were a kid. That was just life,” he said. He is certain now those noises are the cause of his partial hearing loss.
“Sometimes you’ll get a piece of equipment that’s louder than it ought to be. It’s a blast compared to what most people are used to,” he said. “When it’s loud we either stay a little farther away, or add to our hearing protection.”
Manufacturers have started making quieter tractors and machinery. Tractors makers, have added sound-dampening panels to the roofs of their tractor cabs and incorporated sound-absorbing laminated glass and other features.
Dolores Madden a spokesperson for Hidden Hearing said repeated exposure to noises in excess of 85 decibels — comparable to the sound of heavy traffic — damages tiny nerve endings called hair cells inside the cochlea, the inner ear’s pea-sized hearing organ. “This is all cumulative, not just one day, but the next day adds more, the day after that adds even more. And farm activities tend to be repetitive. Younger farmers, the ones who were going to take over the farm, realise how significant a hearing loss they could face by working without ear protections.”
If you are interested in noise protection or have any questions about hearing contact Hidden Hearing 1800 370 000 or apply for a FREE information pack.