Squealing pigs. Tractors. Combines. Grain dryers. Irrigation pumps.
Farming is full of potential hazards to your hearing. One study found that 78 percent of American farmers reported having hearing loss, significantly higher than rates found in other labor groups. Despite this rate, only four percent reported wearing hearing aids.
Sounds are measured in decibels (dB). Prolonged exposure to sounds louder than 85 dB can damage your hearing, while exposure to noises above 120 dB can immediately damage your ears.
Here are some common farming sounds and their decibel levels:
- Enclosed-cab tractor, combine or grain auger, 92 dB
- Air compressor, 95 dB
- Pigs squealing, 100 dB
- Riding lawnmower, 102 dB
- Open-air tractor, combine or grain dryer, 105 dB
- Chainsaw, 115 dB
Ways to Protect Your Hearing
While more than three-quarters of farmers in the U.S. reported hearing loss, only 44 percent of them said they wore hearing protection on a regular basis.
Earmuff-style hearing protection is your best bet for effectively limiting your exposure to dangerous noise levels. Expandable earplugs are decent options as well, but they must be used properly. Roll them into a snake shape, pull the top of your ear back and up and the earplug will go right into the ear. Finally, hold the earplug in with your finger for 20 seconds until it has a chance to expand in the ear canal. Your voice should sound muffled.
Additionally, farmers can take steps to reduce their risk by purchasing the quietest equipment or installing sound insulation in areas of contained sound.