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Research Shows Farmers at Greater Risk for Hearing Loss

by April Maguire

According to recent studies, noise-induced hearing loss is a growing problem around the world, and people in certain lines of work are particularly susceptible. One of the industries with the greatest risk of noise-induced hearing loss is farming, where workers spend most of their days surrounded by excessively loud farm equipment, such as tractors and combines. Given this increased risk, physicians and hearing loss activists have been working hard to educate farmers about ways to cut down on the noise and preserve their hearing.

Noise Pollution on the Farm

In general, sounds in excess of 85 decibels can damage the hair-like structures in your inner ear that deliver the sound impulses to your brain. Once these structures are damaged, your brain receives less auditory information, resulting in a diminished ability to hear. If you've never been on a farm, you may not realize how noisy they are. Between the oversized equipment and the braying animals, there are a lot of potential hazards to your hearing.

Although the research on this issue has certainly expanded in recent years, farmers have known for a while that their work can result in hearing loss. In fact, farmers sometimes refer to the condition as "having tractor ears." Despite the colloquial nickname, the condition is very serious, and if left unchecked can eventually result in severe deafness.

Steps Being Taken

Given the noise risks posed to farmers, steps have already been taken to lower the rate of hearing loss. For starters, the cabs of modern farm equipment are better insulated than their counterparts of years past, helping to cut down on the noise and preserve hearing. Additionally, the younger generation of farmers is far more willing to wear hearing protection, either in the form of earmuffs or buds, which also helps to cut down on the incidence of hearing loss.

Despite these advances, experts warn that the industry needs to take further steps. For example, while ear buds can help to cut down on noise, they are far less effective than earmuffs, which advocates say need to become the standard across the industry. Moreover, researchers suggest that hearing tests performed by trained audiologists need to become a standard part of annual checkups for farmers. Not only will these regular checkups allow farmers to determine how much of their hearing loss is due to advanced age and how much is due to their careers, but it will also allow farmers to preserve as much of their hearing as possible.

By some measures, almost a quarter of the hearing loss in the United States is noise-related, and the farming industry certainly isn't responsible for all of it. If you work in an excessively noisy environment, take steps to protect your ears and go see an audiologist regularly to limit your rate of hearing loss.

If you or someone you know would like to learn more about hearing loss and how to treat it, please feel free to schedule a consultation or contact one of our representatives today!

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