Audiology

Can You Hear Me Now? Tips on Preventing Hearing Loss

August 27, 2018

Can You Hear Me Now? Tips on Preventing Hearing Loss

Midwesterners are known for their hard work, especially in the agriculture field.  Farmers are around equipment like tractors, combines, fire arms, chainsaws, tools, livestock, etc. on a regular basis.  Many of my patients do not recognize that the things they are around or use regularly can cause permanent and irreversible hearing loss. For many people, farmers included, hearing loss comes on gradually over the course of many years. It’s something they don’t even notice until it affects their quality of life or their ability to interact with loved ones.  The good news is hearing loss from loud noises is 100% preventable.

When Loud is Too Loud

It’s easy to overdo it on noise without realizing it.  Here are four signs that sounds are too loud:

  1. If you have to turn something off in order to hear another person talk.
  2. If you have to speak louder than normal for others to hear you.
  3. If your ears ring after being around something.
  4. If you notice that your hearing feels like it declines for a short period of time after being in a loud environment.

If you want to get more technical, you can download an app on most smart phones to help estimate or measure the loudness of sounds through a “sound level meter.”  This chart provides an idea of safe/unsafe sounds based on length of exposure.

Maximum Time/Day Sound level in dB Examples of noise source at sound levels
2.5 hours 90 ATV, push lawn mower
95 minutes 92 Enclosed cab tractor or combine, grain auger
47 minutes 95 Air compressor
30 minutes 97 Shop vacuum
15 minutes 100 Pigs squealing, table saw, irrigation pump
9 minutes 102 Riding lawnmower, pressure washer
4 minutes 105 Tractor, combine (no cab), grain dryer
1.4 minutes 110 Leaf blower, metal grinder
<1 minute 115 Chainsaw

Adapted from : www.extension.org/pages/62258/hearing-loss-and-protection-for-agricultural-producers

Hearing Loss Prevention Tips

So, what can you do about noise you can’t avoid?  The first thing I tell all of my patients is to PROTECT, PROTECT, PROTECT!  That’s right, protect your ears.  Wow, I repeated that a lot, so hopefully you all take it to heart!  I do not care if you use earmuff-style hearing protection, foam ear plugs, or a combination of the two (yes, you can use both).  Just make sure that whatever form of protection you use fits properly on your head or is inserted appropriately (for the foam style of ear plugs) in your ears.  Be sure to look for protection with a larger Noise Reduction Rating or NRR (at least a 30 NRR value).

Other things you can do:

  1. Stay up to date on the maintenance of all of your equipment.
  2. Ask about quieter options when purchasing new tools/equipment.
  3. Try rotating your chores to reduce the time that you are exposed to loud noises.
  4. If possible, isolate yourself from the loud noises by using equipment with enclosed cabs.
  5. Keep extra ear plugs around the equipment and the areas where you have loud equipment.

Help for Hearing Loss

While you cannot reverse the effects of hearing loss, there are things that you can do to help your hearing.  Audiologists are trained to perform specialized tests to evaluate your hearing, diagnose any loss, and assist you with your hearing needs.  If you have any concerns about decreased hearing or ringing in your ears, CHI Health ENT & Audiology is happy to help.

Rebecca McGee, AuD, CCC-A

Rebecca McGee, AuD, CCC-A is an Audiologist at CHI Health.

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