Farming Hearing Healthcare

We are so proud to have the opportunity to serve the communities that make up Southeastern Illinois.

We understand that many of the individuals and the families we work with come from a background in farming and agriculture, and we thank you for working tirelessly to bring food directly to our tables. With farming, there are many hazards that must be considered to maintain a safe work environment. One of these is excess noise exposure. Many farmers do not immediately think about loud noises as a danger to their health, however, the sounds that farmers are exposed to on a daily basis in SE Illinois have the potential to cause permanent and irreversible hearing loss.

Farming Increases Risk of Developing Hearing Loss

A study recently published in the US National Library of Medicine aimed to evaluate the connection between farmers and an increased risk for hearing loss. The study compared the hearing sensitivities of farmers who were only exposed to noise at work (did not often participate in noisy leisure activities such as concerts or sporting events) to peers who had jobs where they were not exposed to noise.

Each farmer was matched with a non-farm worker who was their same age within 6 months. Once matched, all of the participants were separated into three groups by age, the 30-year group, the 40-year group and the 50-year group. The researchers then gave each participant a hearing assessment and the results were quite shocking.

For the control group (those who were not farm workers and who were not exposed to noise at work) none of the participants in any age group had a significant hearing loss. The results were quite different for the farmers. For the farmers, 10% of the people in the 30-year group, 30% of the people in the 40-year group, and 50% of the people in the 50-year group all had a significant hearing loss. This study shows that farming begins to affect one’s hearing as early as age 30, and continues to becomes worse over time.

It is clear from this study and from many others exposure to the daily noises regularly associated with farming can cause significant damage to your hearing.
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What Aspects of Farming in SE Illinois Cause the Issues?

In the US in general and SE Illinois specifically, farmers are consistently exposed to noise. A recent study found that 92% of American farmers were exposed to dangerously high noise levels, 78% experienced hearing loss and only 4% of these actually used hearing aids.

Tractor plow field Some examples of machines and processes that are making a whole lot of noise are as follows:
  • Grain Dryers
  • Tractors
  • Combines
  • Livestock
  • Chainsaws
  • Firearms

There are some less obvious noise exposure risks as well. For example, blasting music while in the tiny confounds of an enclosed piece of farm equipment can also cause damage to your hearing. A good rule of thumb is if you need to raise your voice in order for someone to hear you who is standing 3 feet away, the noise is too loud and could potentially cause hearing loss.

How to Protect Your Hearing While Farming

There are many precautions farmers can take to protect their hearing.

  • Hearing Protection

    This one is imperative! It is inexpensive and will dramatically reduce your exposure to dangerous noise at work - without changing anything that you normally do! Disposable ear plugs are better than nothing, and will reduce the sound significantly. However, custom hearing protection options are the ideal choice. These are ear plugs that are custom molded to fit your unique ear and ear canal. This means that they are the most comfortable and effective options.

  • Perform Routine Equipment Maintenance

    Ensuring that your equipment is running smoothly can help to keep the noise levels down. Fixing mufflers, replacing worn parts, and keeping your machines well lubricated will all help to reduce the noise they emit.

  • Reduce Sound Levels

    When it is time to purchase new equipment, take noise levels into consideration. Some manufacturers are using technology to make farming equipment quieter than ever before. You set the calibrations to the quietest option possible when you first operate your machine.