Farmers Experience Hearing Loss When Using Loud Machinery
COLUMBIA - Local experts say more farmers today have hearing loss because producers depend on noisy equipment and tools in order to keep up with the world's demand for food and fuel.
Officials at the University of Missouri Agriculture and Natural Resource Extension studied sound levels of common farm equipment including tractors, chainsaws, powered drills and table saws, and learned some of the noise emissions are too loud for the user. Experts say people's ears can handle up to 90 decibels of volume, and anything louder could potentially cause permanent damage to one's hearing.
David Baker, Director of MU's Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension, said a significant amount of farmers today don't wear hearing protection while they're exposed to loud noise levels emitted from modern equipment and tools.
"They need to reduce their exposure. They need to wear personal protective equipment, and they need to buy agricultural equipment with the proper protection so they can protect themselves and their hearing," Baker said.
Professionals at Jones Beltone in Columbia say farmers have come into their office and asked about the potential risks associated with hearing loss.
"There are a variety of means by which you can keep your hearing protected and keep the noise reduced to a level that's relatively safe," said David Jones, Jones Beltone ear specialist.
Some local farm and ag stores sell hearing protection products including protective earmuffs and earplugs, but not all of the gear guarantees to block out all of the noise. Between the earmuffs and earplugs, each product should block out between 20 and 25 decibels of volume above the 90 db limit.
Experts say you can wear earplugs and earmuffs at the same time as a way to double your protection. For instance, a person exposed to the noise of gunfire would require protection that can cover the additional 50 decibels of volume that's harmful to one's hearing.
"The effects of noise exposure are cumulative. They build up over time," Jones said.
Professionals also say people do not experience hearing loss in the same ways. Some people have hearing loss at different frequencies. Jones says a person's exposure to noise and how close they are to it depends on whether hearing loss will occur.
Lee Forker, a local tree farmer, shares his experience living with hearing loss.
Ear Specialist David Jones Talks About the Risks of Hearing Loss:
MU's David Baker Provides Advice on How to Avoid Hearing Loss: