Farmers have been warned that exposure to the noise made by some farm machinery is causing “lifelong damage” to their hearing.
Hidden Hearing, a provider of hearing healthcare, said that 19 of 21 farm machinery pieces it studied have a noise level above 80 decibels (db).
The group said that any noise over 80db can cause noise-induced hearing loss when exposed for long periods, with farmers and those in manual labour industries at a higher risk of suffering from early hearing loss as a result.
Even with just 15 minutes of exposure to noise levels 100db and over, an individual will start to damage their hearing.
Any exposure longer than 15 minutes at a decibel level over 100db can have a detrimental impact on one’s hearing and can cause lifelong damage, the group highlighted.
Publishing the results of its research ahead of Ploughing 2023, Hidden Hearing warned that a combine harvester has a noise level of 105db, a baler has 102db and a tractor has 100db.
The research found that a cultivator has noise levels of 98db, a rotavator has 96db, a power harrow has 95db, a milking parlour has 90db and a plough has 89db. These were just some of the machinery highlighted as creating a particularly high risk of hearing damage for farmers.
Hidden Hearing also looked at the noise risk of livestock. It found that pigs top the chart for the loudest farm animal.
“It’s not just farm machinery that can put your hearing at risk however. Many common farm animals are louder than the 80db noise level that can cause acquired hearing loss,” a spokesperson explained.
The research found that pigs have noise of 110db, cows have 80db, geese have 80db, sheep have 40db and horses have 38db.
Hidden Hearing and qualified audiologist Dolores Madden highlighted that farmers “often underestimate the damage that comes from being around loud machines for a long time”.
“Your hearing is precious and not paying attention to the risks can lead to permanent damage.
“Noise-induced hearing loss is an issue for farmers at all ages. Previous research we’ve conducted indicated that 22% of farmers admit that they suffer from hearing issues.
“We created these tables to highlight how at-risk farmers are when it comes to their everyday working lives. They work in loud environments nearly every day of the year and, unfortunately, the machinery they use puts them at a much higher risk of early hearing loss,” she said.
With the Hidden Hearing research in hand, Madden advised farmers on how best to protect their hearing.