Many Iowans have allergies or hearing problems but farmers may be more susceptible to both. Dr. Dwight Jones, an ear, nose and throat specialist in Omaha/Council Bluffs, says some of the most common ailments among rural residents, particularly farmers, are chronic sinus disease and late summer and fall allergies.
“People can have chronic runny noses and chronic stuffy noses from chronic sinus disease,” Dr. Jones says. “Chronic sinus disease often times plagues farmers and ranchers and people in the rural community heavily from nasal allergies. If you clear the allergies up, often times the sinus disease will clear up.”
If it doesn’t clear up, he says it can be treated in the office through sinus therapy. During dry seasons, dust from multiple sources is common on farms, whether it’s stirred up by tractors working in the fields or from the gravel road in front of the farmhouse.
“All of those kinds of dust lead to increasing problems with asthma and chronic respiratory diseases in the farming and ranching population,” Jones says. “It’s really imperative that they avoid that kind of dust exposure on a chronic, long-term basis, or do something to protect themselves from that type of exposure.”
Years of being around big tractors, trucks and combines can also take a toll on one’s hearing. Jones says that’s another occupational hazard. “Farmers and ranchers work around a lot of heavy equipment, they work around a lot of noisy equipment and they’re especially vulnerable to have damage to their hearing,” Jones says. “They should take care and either wear some kind of hearing protection if possible or avoid long-term exposure to those kind of noises which can lead to sensory neuro hearing loss and tinnitus.”
For farmers and anyone else who suffers from ragweed allergies, he says a relatively new treatment is available. Drops can be taken under the tongue which can eliminate allergy shots and over-the-counter medications.