Loud noise is the most common cause of permanent hearing loss. Noise-induced hearing loss does not heal and cannot be corrected by hearing aids. No one is ever too young or old to suffer from the effects of hearing loss from noise. Protect your hearing by wearing the right personal protective equipment. Ear-muffs, earplugs and canal caps can all reduce the amount of noise exposure.
Make sure that everyone at home or on the farm understands the effects of noise. Tell the whole family that noise exposure can damage hearing. Space out or shorten noise-related activities. This gives your ears a rest and reduces general daily exposure. Household appliances, power tools, recreational vehicles and loud music can all damage hearing. The louder the noise and the greater the length of exposure, the greater the chance of permanent hearing loss.
Anyone in the family experiencing hearing difficulties should be tested so existing problems can be identified and monitored. Remember that some hearing disorders may not be noise related. A complete examination and evaluation by a professional can help you determine the cause.
Hearing Protection Devices
|Noise-induced hearing loss does not heal and cannot be corrected by hearing aids.|
Some sort of hearing protection should be worn when working around loud noise. Some people prefer earmuffs because they are easy to take off and put back on. To be effective, earmuffs need to seal well around the ear. Some people find earmuffs more comfortable than earplugs, but they are bulkier and may increase perspiration in warm weather. Glasses, long sideburns, long hair, and facial movements (such as chewing gum) can reduce earmuff protection. However, special equipment is available for use with glasses or beards.
Earplugs are available as preformed rubber or plastic inserts fitted to the user’s ears. Since plugs must fit well to work well, people who wear earplugs regularly should consider having them custom fitted. Plugs must be cleaned often to prevent ear infections. Earplugs are also available as hand-formed inserts of disposable materials such as wax, foam, or "Swedish wool." These can be worked loose with jaw movement. Inexpensive disposable inserts are for temporary protection; discard them after use. Ordinary cotton won’t work and shouldn’t be used as a hearing protector.
Hearing Protection Rules
Here are general guidelines to remember about hearing protection:
|Decibel||Example of Sound|
|0||Lowest sound audible to the human ear.|
|30||Crickets, distant frogs, whisper.|
|40||Kitten meowing, song birds, distant dog bark.|
|50||Refrigerator running, babbling trout stream, empty barn.|
|60||Average conversation level.|
|70||Chicken coop, busy restaurant. At this decibel level, noise may begin to affect your hearing if you’re exposed to it over the long term.|
|The Danger Zone|
|80||Tractor idling, barn cleaner, conveyers, elevators. These noises can damage hearing if exposure to them is for more than eight hours continuously.|
|90||Tractor at 50% load, blower, compressor, combine. As loudness increases, the "safe" exposure time decreases; damage can occur in less than eight hours.|
|100||Tractor at 80% load, pig squeal, power tools. Even two hours of exposure can be dangerous. With each 5 decibel increase, the "safe time" is cut in half.|
|120||Tractor at full load, bad muffler, old chain saw. The danger is immediate.|
|140||Gunshot, back-fire, dynamite blast. Any length of exposure time is dangerous. At this level, the noise may actually cause pain in the ear.|
Publication #: 2293
This Maine Farm Safety Fact Sheet is part of an educational fact sheet series produced by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension. For more information on farm safety, contact your county Extension office.
Disclaimer and Reproduction Information: Information in NASD does not represent NIOSH policy. Information included in NASD appears by permission of the author and/or copyright holder. More