Older farmers are being urged not to “throw in the towel” just because they think they have to live with hearing loss, audiologist with Specsavers, Rachel Hetherington, has said.

Farmers should get their ears tested regularly just like they do with eye tests, she said. However, more often than not, this is not the case and hearing loss is left to deteriorate.

Working as an audiologist in rural Ireland, Hetherington says that there is huge stigma among the farming community around hearing loss and, often, farmers can leave it five to seven years before admitting to it.

“Some farmers think that you can’t have a normal life on the farm and have hearing aids. From a safety aspect, if you’re working with tractors and machinery, obviously you want to be able to hear.

“There’s always been a bit of a stigma around hearing aids and hearing loss and we’re trying to change that,” she told the Irish Farmers Journal.

“You don’t constantly have to be asking what or why. You can have a simple ear health check and it’s not painful, or scary and it doesn’t have to be expensive either,” she added.


Hearing aids, worth up to €1,000, are free at Specsavers if you’re employed, self-employed, or retired and have the required number of PRSI contributions.

Farmers can now also, Hetherington added, claim under their spouse’s PRSI contributions for hearing aids. Basic hearing tests at Specsavers are free of charge also.

Managing hearing loss

“It’s really about managing hearing loss; obviously we can’t suddenly give you bionic hearing that you had when you were 20, but it’s about doing something about it.

“There are so many studies now about the importance of managing hearing loss early because it helps to slow down the deterioration, it helps with early onset dementia – it’s not just about hearing; it’s about your brain health.

“Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to put up with it,” she said.

Farmers, she added, are exposed to very loud noise throughout their life and rarely tend to use, or even consider using, ear protection.

“I had one man who came into the clinic and told me that ‘real men didn’t wear ear protection’. From a social aspect, I have farmers telling me that they when they come in after a busy day, they can’t hear the television, they can’t go out with their friends to enjoy a pint because they’re not engaging in conversation.

“What we see with many older people is that they become very isolated because they just give up bothering. Farmers tell me that they get very embarrassed because they’re always asking ‘what?’,” she said.

How hearing aids work

Hearing aids work with the hearing that is left to help you have better clarity and better speech recognition, Hetherington said.

While they won’t bring back any hearing, she said, it’s more about working with the hearing that you have to give you a better quality of life.

“It’s so important to do something about it in your late forties and early fifties if you have hearing loss.

“If you leave it until you are in your seventies or eighties, it can be more difficult because you can start to suffer from auditory deprivation,” Hetherington said.