Farm Safety Involves Everyone
Farmers experience one of the highest rates of hearing loss. Loss of hearing for farmers is caused in part by the many potential sources of loud noises on the farm: tractors, combines, grinders, choppers, conveyors, grain dryers, chain saws, shotguns, etc. Prolonged exposure to excessive noise can cause permanent hearing losses, unless noise control measures are taken.
The effects of noise can be broken into three areas:
1). Physiological effects: noise induced hearing loss or aural pain, nausea, and reduced muscular control.
2). Psychological effects: noise can startle, annoy, and disrupt concentration or sleep.
3). Interference with communication.
The ears provide two warning signs for overexposure to noise: temporary threshold shift (TTS) and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). After leaving a noisy area or piece of equipment, many people commonly experience both of these symptoms. The temporary hearing loss is difficult to detect unless a hearing test is performed. Hearing usually returns almost completely in 12 to 14 hours, if there is no more noise exposure. Tinnitus is a general symptom of the auditory system not functioning properly.
Reducing Exposure to Agricultural Noise:
When practical and economically feasible, engineering controls are the most effective ways to reduce noise exposure because they reduce noise exposure because they reduce sound level at the source. Some examples are:
a). Replace worn, loose or unbalanced machine parts to cut down on the amount of vibration generated.
b). Make sure that machine parts are well lubricated to cut down on noise exposure created by friction.
c). Installing a good, high-quality muffler on all engine-powered equipment to reduce vibration produced by airflow.
d). Isolate yourself from the noise source with an acoustically designed cab. However, noise exposure on tractors is only part of the total noise problem. Additional noise engineering must be done on other machinery: grain dryers, combines, pickers, to name a few.
Personal Protective Equipment:
Two basic types of hearing protection are earmuffs and earplugs. Earmuffs are the most effective. The noise reduction provided by earmuffs varies widely due to differences in size, shape, seal material, shell mass, and type of suspension. Earplugs are available as preformed inserts made of rubber, plastic or foam. When purchasing earplugs, follow the directions closely so that a snug, tight fit is obtained in the ear canal when the plug is inserted.
Warning: Cotton should never be used for the purpose of reducing noise exposure. Cotton cannot block out high frequency sound and will provide no protection from high sound levels.
Hearing loss is a condition that occurs over time from repeated exposure to excessive noise. We can't always prevent noise, but we can prevent hearing loss by following established safety procedures and using the appropriate hearing protectors for the noise hazards we face each day.
It's up to you---you can make the difference between a life with all the joys of sound or a life of silence!