Poor Hearing -- a natural consequence of growing old? Such is not the case with many farmers. Studies have shown that some farmers experience substantial noise induced hearing loss by age 30. Many types of modern farm equipment emit noise far in excess of recommended levels. Prolonged exposure to excess noise levels can result in permanent hearing loss, unless some type of noise control measures are utilized.SOUND AND NOISE
Sound is radiant energy that is transmitted through space by longitudinal pressure and is the objective cause of hearing. Normal ears can detect sounds of minute intensity as well as extreme intensity. Noise is best described as unwanted sound of sufficient intensity to damage hearing. The measurement of sound or noise is related to pressure, frequency and duration, and is commonly measured in units called decibels.HOW NOISE DAMAGES HEARING
Noise-induced hearing loss seldom involves total hearing loss or deafness. However, the damage cannot be repaired and hearing aids can do little good. Constant exposure to noise affects the inner ear. The first sign of hearing damage is an inability to hear higher pitched sounds; with continued exposure to noise, the ability to tell musical tones apart becomes impossible. Eventually, with continual exposure to excess noise, the ability to hear normal conversation is impaired.
Noise is too loud when:
Next to eyesight, hearing is the most important asset humans have. Noise can lead to fatigue and reduce work output. Loss of hearing means that one of our most important warning devices is impaired.DECIBEL -- A UNIT OF MEASUREMENT
The softest sound audible to humans is zero decibels; normal conversation measures approximately 65 decibels. Noise in excess of 120 decibels causes acute pain to the ear. Even brief exposure to noise levels of 120 decibels can result in a short lived hearing loss called temporary threshold shift. The ringing sensation that is sometimes experienced after operating a diesel tractor is a good example of this temporary shift. Normal hearing will usually return over a period of a few hours. However, continual exposure to noise at high decibel levels over a period of time may lead to permanent hearing loss.
The decibel measurement, similarly the ear, follows the inverse square law and as the distance from the source of the noise increases, the decibel level decreases as the square of the distance. For example, if you were located 5 feet from a noise source and moved 10 feet from the noise source, the noise level would drop to one-fourth of the level at 5 feet.DECIBEL LEVELS OF COMMON SOUNDS
|0||Acute threshold of hearing|
|15||Average threshold of hearing|
|70||Inside an automobile at 60 m.p.h.|
|90||Recommended level for 8 hour exposure|
|100||Tractor under load, motor cycle, snowmobile|
|120||Jack hammer, amplified rock music|
Recommended levels for noise exposure have been incorporated into many types of safety and health legislation in Canada. These limits should serve as a guide to all persons involved in agricultural work. The Ontario Industrial Safety Act, 1971, sets forth the following limits:
|Sound Level (Decibels)||Exposure Period/24 Hours|
|115||15 minutes or less|
Note: Research has indicated that these limits should be altered somewhat. Future recommended levels will likely state 85 decibels for an eight hour exposure.NOISE CONTROL
Noise control involves three distinct areas: (a) source of noise, (b) path along which the noise travels, and (c) the ear. Modifying the redesigning the source of noise can reduce noise levels. By interrupting the path of noise with a barrier such as an insulated tractor cab, noise can be reduced. Finally, noise damage to ears can be eliminated by using ear protection and limiting the exposure time.FARM MACHINERY
The list of farm machinery capable of producing noise-induced hearing loss is endless. Many manufacturers of farm equipment are now designing their equipment to reduce noise.
However, the nature of farm equipment and the manner in which it is used, will continue to make noise a problem area for quite some time.TRACTOR CABS
Fully insulated tractor cabs are now available for most popular makes of tractors. Improvements in mounting techniques and the use of acoustic materials have allowed many manufacturers to produce a cab that meets recommended noise levels.EAR PROTECTION
Ear muffs and plugs are available from safety supply companies and are also available from many farm supply outlets. When buying ear protection, remember that a good fit is compulsory in order for these devices to function properly.
Publication #: F-007
The information and recommendations contained in this publication are believed to be reliable and representative of contemporary expert opinion on the subject material. The Farm Safety Association does not guarantee absolute accuracy or sufficiency of subject material, nor can it accept responsibility for health and safety recommendations that may have been omitted due to particular and exceptional conditions and circumstances.
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