Harvesting time and the risk of hearing loss

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Between tractors, combine harvesters, grain dryers and chainsaws, farmers are exposed to a wide variety of loud noises in their working environment. Although single exposure levels may not be that high, sustained exposure over the years can cause serious damage to hearing.

According to Bruce L. Plakke, audiologist at the University of Northern Iowa (USA), ringing should be taken as a warning sign. “If you notice ringing in your ears, then you’re overexposed to noise. In the beginning, the hearing loss is temporary, but repeated exposure makes it permanent,” he explains. Plakke has treated countless patients who worked long-term in the agricultural sector. In addition, he conducted a study showing that by age 30, 10% of farm workers had detectable hearing loss and that this figure increased to 30% at 40 years of age, and even to 50% at age 50. Research studies have demonstrated that nearly three quarters of farmers have some degree of hearing impairment.

Noise-impact facts are often highlighted at trade shows or conventions to raise awareness about the potential dangers of occupational noise exposure. In recent years, there have also been many initiatives to develop quieter farming equipment. One example is the addition of cabs to tractors to spare users some of the grinding and mechanical noises inherent in their work. Reductions from 110 dB to safer levels of 75 to 80 dB have been achieved in this way. Many farmers however still use older equipment and tools that have not integrated noise-reduction technology, making the need for earmuffs or earplugs as important as ever.

Source: Denver Post; Worldmag.com