REGINA – Many people think of farms as relatively quiet places, punctuated by occasional noise from equipment or animals.
But being subjected to these noises means that by age 40, many farmers are already experiencing significant hearing loss, said Dr. Jim Dosman, head of the Centre for Agricultural Medicine in Saskatoon.
To combat this, the centre and the Saskatchewan Hearing Aid Plan have launched a hearing conservation program in 77 rural municipalities which participate in the agricultural health and safety network.
Free hearing test
Dosman said about 17,000 farm families will receive a package of information outlining noise levels and what to do to prevent hearing loss. The hearing aid plan will provide a free hearing test as part of the program.
“If you have to raise your voice to be heard, you’re at a level where you need protection,” said Brenda Angelstad from the plan’s Saskatoon office.
The information lists noise levels of various types of farm equipment and how long someone can be exposed to those levels before suffering hearing loss.
The average acceptable noise level for an eight-hour day is 85 decibels. If the noise level increases just three decibels, the maximum exposure time is cut in half.
Most combines emit noise in the 76 to 90 decibel range. Grain augers average 101 decibels and just 15 minutes of exposure without protection will cause hearing loss.
Immediate hearing damage occurs if no protection is worn in a swine barn at feeding time, when the noise level can reach 133 decibels.
Dosman said ear plugs are a start, but only work if inserted properly. Cotton batting is not recommended because it is not dense enough.
Farmers should turn radios off in their tractors, limit their exposure to noise and have regular tests to ensure their hearing is working.