A new University of Iowa study finds farmers who don’t protect their hearing face a greater chance of being injured on the job. Doctor Nancy Sprince says they studied the issue because they knew workers in the general population had a greater risk for injury if they had hearing problems. And, she says farmers generally have hearing problems earlier than other workers.
Sprince says they found that farmers who had a severe hearing loss, enough to require a hearing aid, had twice the risk of other farmers for getting a traumatic injury that required medical treatment. Sprince says farmers often start to suffer some hearing loss in their 30’s — well before the general population.
Sprince says the early hearing loss in farmers is due to the noise exposure on the farm, as she says it’s not just machinery that creates a lot of noise, a large number of animals can also create noise loud enough to cause a problem for farmers. Sprince is a professor of occupational and environmental health in the U-I College of Public Health, and says helping farmers overcome the noise that causes hearing loss isn’t easy.
Sprince says general industry workers generally say their company should "engineer out the noise" by creating quieter equipment and quieter workplaces. She says the farm is such a diverse workplace, that it’s hard to engineer out the noise. Sprince says farmers should do more to prevent the hearing loss early on, to prevent possible hearing-related injuries later in their lives.
Sprince says if farmers can’t engineer out the noise, they should be wearing hearing protection a whole lot more than they are now. Sprince says farmers should try to wear ear plugs or ear covers whenever they can in noisy situations to protect their hearing. Sprince’s study look at some 900 farmers and assessed their history of injuries and how those injuries related to the farmer’s hearing loss.