By Gary Sliworsky
Ag rep, Emo
If you have a dull, ringing sensation in your ears after a long day on the tractor, it’s an indication you have exceeded a sound level that can be comfortably tolerated.
It also could be the first sign of hearing loss.
This ringing is typically accompanied by a slight loss of hearing. While overnight rest generally will restore normal hearing, repeated, prolonged exposure to noise of this intensity likely will result in a permanent hearing loss.
Sound is measured in decibels (dB), with the range of zero to 85 dB being acceptable levels.
Research shows that risk of hearing loss is determined by how loud the noise is, how close you are to it, and how long you are exposed to it.
High-impact noise at close range can cause permanent hearing loss in seconds. Examples are gunfire (140 dB), an engine backfiring, and cutting, grinding, or punching metal.
The greatest risk to farmers is spending prolonged periods of time being exposed to normal farm noise that is slightly to moderately higher than acceptable levels.
Tractors, grinders, augers, chainsaws, lawn mowers, and even squealing pigs have decibel levels that exceed 90.
Prolonged exposure to these farm noises often causes hearing loss for farmers. Hearing aids cannot always improve the hearing of those suffering from noise-induced hearing loss.
Preventing the problem is the best approach.
Here are a few things you can do to help reduce the risk of hearing loss on your farm:
•If you don’t have a cab for your tractor, wear CSA-approved hearing protectors.
•Simple machinery maintenance also can lower noise levels, such as keeping all equipment well-lubricated, properly-adjusted, and maintained.
•Limit the amount of time spent in a noisy area (if you can’t reduce exposure, wear hearing protection).
•When working in a shop, keep as much distance as possible between you and noisy equipment. Locate a noisy air compressor or other shop equipment as far away from the work area as possible.
Doubling the distance from the source of a noise reduces the sound level by one-fourth.
An acoustic barrier, made out of fire-resistant material, also could reduce the noise level in a shop.
Hearing loss is entirely preventable on the farm.
Protecting the health and well-being of everyone on the farm is not just good sense, it’s good business.