Have you heard? Most hearing loss is preventable.
“Nothing can restore lost hearing. Once it’s gone, it’s gone!” says Karen Funkenbusch, University of Missouri Extension rural safety and health specialist. “But hearing loss caused by noise is preventable and you can choose to prevent it.”
Funkenbusch offers sound advice for agricultural workers during harvest season and National Protect Your Hearing Month.
She recommends using hearing protection that will cut down on background noise.
A side benefit is that hearing protection reduces stress, anxiety and fatigue at the end of the day. Funkenbusch recommends that agricultural workers put earplugs in their pockets each morning when they grab their cellphone and keys. Canal caps or muffs should be on the tractor steering wheel, combine or lawn mower. “The easier it is to use, the more likely you will use it,” she says.
Hearing prevention also means reducing equipment noise by replacing worn, loose or unbalanced machine parts. Keep equipment well lubricated and maintained to reduce noise, she says.
Noise levels above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss. Examples of common sounds above this include gunshots, firecrackers, grain dryers, chain saws, rock bands, circular saws, squealing pigs, a tractor idling in the shop 6 feet or less away, hand drills, a combine 10 feet away and at full throttle, table saws, a tractor without a cab or a combine while riding in the cab.
“If you need to raise your voice to be heard an arm’s length away, the noise is probably loud enough to damage your hearing,” she said.
Ask yourself these questions to determine if you might need a hearing evaluation by a medical professional:
- Do I have trouble hearing when two or more people are talking?
- Do I have trouble hearing over the telephone?
- Do others complain that you turn the television volume up too high?
- Do you strain to understand conversations?
- Do you have trouble hearing if the background is noisy?
- Do you frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
- Do you think people mumble frequently?
For more information, contact Funkenbusch at MU Extension’s AgrAbility Project or call 1-800-995-8503.
The National Institutes of Health has a three-minute video on preventing hearing loss on the farm at www.noisyplanet.nidcd.nih.gov/info/Pages/farm_video.aspx.