Oct. 7 2021 08:50 AM

Harmful sounds can chip away at your hearing ability, but the damage is preventable.

Dealing with dangerous conditions every day is part of a farmer’s job. From large animals and machinery to chemicals and medications, those in agriculture know that an unsafe decision can change their life or the lives of those around them in an instant. Taking proper precautions and preparing oneself is critical.

But what might be more difficult to avoid — or even to recognize — are smaller exposures and dangers than can add up over time to cause damage to your health. While it can also happen instantaneously, slow deterioration is often how hearing loss develops. This is particularly of concern to farmers because of their regular exposure to loud equipment.

Hearing loss is currently the third-most common chronic physical condition behind arthritis and heart disease, shared Jana Davidson of the Progressive Agriculture Foundation. And with 22 million people exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, occupational hearing loss is one of the most common work-related illnesses in the U.S. To draw attention to those statistics, October is National Protect Your Hearing Month.

Hearing loss isn’t just for older folks, either. Davidson cited a study that found North American children may be exposed to more noise at school than a factory worker during an eight-hour shift. Personal listening devices, for example, often have a maximum volume of around 105 decibels, she stated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that hearing protection be worn around noises louder than 85 decibels.

With that threshold in mind, Davidson noted that smartphone apps are available to gauge environmental noise levels. Consider the sounds you encounter on a regular basis. Could they be damaging? If so, what are you doing to invest in your health and protect your hearing?

Hearing loss is preventable, Davidson emphasized. Remember these three strategies when you’re faced with a loud situation:

Protect your ears by wearing earplugs or earmuffs.

Walk away from loud noises when possible.

Turn down the volume on things we can control.

Farmers don’t need any extra risks that they can mitigate, particularly with their health. A simple pair of earplugs can make a long-term difference in your quality of life and ability to do your job safely.

Katelyn Allen

Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.