The Sounds of Summer (News Release)

  • Lown, Joel B.

It's summer. Your ears are being attacked by sound from tractors, mowers, leaf blowers, power tools, chainsaws, chippers, string trimmers, car radios, stereo headphones and, possibly, snoring relatives!

Some of this ruckus may be causing permanent damage. Ten years from now, you may have the opportunity to ask people to repeat what they just said, or drift off to sleep with "ringing" in your ears. Then you'll care about hearing loss. Then it will be too late.

Sound is measured in decibels (dB). Every six decibels doubles the volume - 106 dB is twice as loud as 100 dB. You can damage your hearing if you listen to 90 dB for over eight hours a day, 100 dB for over two hours, or 110 dB for over 30 minutes.

Unfortunately, many of the tools we use produce more noise than our ears can tolerate safely for the length of time we need to use them. A chainsaw, for example, may produce 115 dB, but we may need to use it for more than the recommended 15 minutes.

The best solutions to noise are to reduce the volume or limit your exposure time. If you can't do either of these, then wear hearing protection. Two excellent styles of hearing protection are popular now - soft foam plugs that fit in your ears, and muffs worn over your ears. Foam plugs are inexpensive (as little as 10 cents a pair if you buy enough for the whole neighborhood), comfortable, and very effective (cutting the sound level almost 30 dB). Muffs are ideal for times when you are exposed to dangerous noise repeatedly for short periods, since you can easily put them on and take them off. They cost as little as ten dollars and block from 20 to 30 dB.

Hearing protection makes noisy jobs a lot more comfortable and reduces fatigue and irritability. It actually allows you to monitor a machine better, since your brain is not being overwhelmed by all the excess noise.

Folks who already have some hearing loss need to use hearing protection just as much as those with "perfect" hearing. You never "get used to" loud noise. The sounds may not seem as loud now as they did 20 years ago, but they are still pounding on the mechanisms of the ear just as hard and causing further hearing loss.

One final warning. Never use stereo headphones when operating loud equipment. You are simply compounding the problem - accelerating your hearing loss by adding noise on top of noise.

This news release was distributed by the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, Knoxville, Tennessee 37901. Publication date: July 1993.

Joel B. Lown, Agricultural Safety Specialist, Agricultural Engineering Department, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service, Knoxville, Tennessee 37901.

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