Hearing Loss State Spotlight

Construction: If you’ve ever been caught at a red light while a crew uses a jackhammer to repair the street, you know how painfully loud that sound can be. Imagine how it would feel if that was the job you did every day. People working in construction use saws, drills, hammers, and other equipment that makes a great deal of loud noise for long periods of time.

Farming: Did you know more than 200,000 Iowans are employed as farmers or work in a farming related field? At first glance, farming might not seem like a profession that could damage your hearing – at least not to city dwellers. But those who have lived or worked on a farm, or in any of the many industries that relate to it, know better. A tractor with a closed cab can expose its operator to noise levels of around 85 decibels, and an open cab to 100 decibels. Grain silos and all the equipment that dries and keeps things flowing smoothly generate a lot of noise. Even a barn full of animals can be loud. A pig’s squeal alone can reach 106 decibels!

Manufacturing: According to the CDC, 82% of hearing-loss cases reported in 2007 involved workers in manufacturing. Manufacturing is equipment-intensive work, and equipment tends to create noise. In Iowa, manufacturing tends to be particularly focused on heavy farming equipment, which often has significantly more work and machining.When the noise reaches over 85 decibels, damage can occur. When that noise level is sustained for hours and days at a time, it’s hard to understand how someone wouldn’t have hearing loss.

Hunting: This activity might ring a bell – and keep bells ringing in your ears for years to come in the form of tinnitus. In 2013 more than 170,000 hunting licenses were issued to Iowans. Being exposed just once to gunfire can do permanent damage to your hearing! Bow hunters might think they’re at less risk but you don’t have to pull the trigger yourself for a gun’s sound to cause hearing issues – standing next to the person shooting, or even in the vicinity, can cause damage.

First, be mindful of working conditions and use the appropriate noise-reducing gear. Know what tools and equipment are particularly loud, and wear hearing protection when working with or near them. Try different protection options – earmuffs may sound like something a kid would wear in the snow, but using them will keep you safe and much happier when you can hear your grandchildren telling you about their day. If earmuffs are too much, try earplugs. They may not be glamorous, but if they’re effective, that’s all that matters where safety is concerned.

Second, use tools that muffle or reduce noise on the equipment itself. You can install noise-reducing mufflers on engines. Choose the tractor with an enclosed cab or purchase an add-on enclosure.

Third, a simple and quick hearing test can help you understand where your hearing is now, and your hearing care provider can help you identify tools and resources to slow or prevent further damage. If you work in any of the above industries, or you find yourself engaging in loud activities regularly, you should have your hearing tested once per year to check for any significant changes.