Hearing for a Lifetime: Tips to Prevent Hearing Loss

Hearing loss from exposure to noise is common among farmers and agricultural worker. It’s permanent and irreversible and can reduce the quality of life. What complicates things is that, for most farmers, hearing loss occurs gradually over many years and may only be noticed once it is a serious problem—but at that point, it’s often too late. Fortunately, hearing loss from excessive noise can be prevented.

“You don’t notice a thing until you don’t notice a thing.” — how David Briggs, a Kansas farmer, describes his hearing loss

Life on the farm isn’t as quiet and serene as Hallmark movies depict with two lovebirds driving past rolling fields of grain at sunset. As beauitful as it looks, the reality is there’s a long list of sounds that can be dangerous to the human ear and have a lasting impact. For example, tractor engines, compressors and power tools, and even pig squeals can generate noises at decibel levels that can effect your hearing.

What is a Decibel?

The decibel (abbreviated dB) is the unit used to measure the intensity of a sound. Noise levels over 85 decibels can be hazardous to hearing.

How Loud is Too Loud?

If you have to raise your voice to speak to someone an arm’s length away, the noise levels may be loud enough to damage your hearing.

How Can I Protect My Hearing?
  • Use a smartphone sound level meter app to get a rough estimate of noise levels.
  • Make the workplace quieter. Use quieter equipment when possible. Good maintenance, new mufflers, and other changes can make a difference too. Move noisy equipment, like compressors and generators, as far away from workers as possible. Also, setting up plywood or plastic sheeting around machinery can shield noise.
  • Use protective equipment like earplugs or earmuffs – Workers need to be trained to use it. Use hearing protection that is easy to put on and take off and has sufficient protection, called Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). Hearing protectors should be worn:
    • Anytime people need to yell to be heard;
    • When using power tools or working near others who are
    • When working around heavy equipment or loud machinery


Join Noisy Planet on this 3-minute video to Mountain View Farm in Purcellville, Va., to learn about how to protect your hearing if you live or work on a farm. It’s not all quiet pastures and peeping baby chicks.  In fact, you’ll wish you had hearing protection when you hear the pig squeal!