by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

This piece on Agriculture.com discusses noise-induced hearing loss. We city dwellers think of the countryside as being quiet, but that’s not correct for those who grow or raise the food we eat.

As writer Lisa Foust Prater puts it, “[g]rain dryers, tractors, combines, livestock, chain saws and other saws, and firearms are the top culprits when it comes to hazardous noise on the farm.”

Prater writes:

How loud is too loud? The short answer is if you have to raise your voice to be heard by someone 3 feet away, the environment is too loud. If a noise causes ringing in your ears or a temporary reduction in hearing, it’s too loud.

She is correct.

Unfortunately, Prater writes that “[t]he specific answer is that any sound level over 85 decibels or prolonged exposure to sounds over 80 decibels can cause hearing loss, according to GPCAH.“ GPCAH is the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, located at the College of Public Health at the University of Iowa, and they should know better. 85 decibels, actually 85 A-weighted decibels, is the recommended occupational noise exposure level. It doesn’t protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss, and certainly isn’t safe for the public. I discussed the reasons why in an article published this summer.

Whether you live in the city or on a farm, remember that if something sounds loud, it’s too loud. There is no such thing as temporary auditory damage, and any muffling of sound or ringing in the ears indicates that permanent auditory damage has already occurred.

Leave the noisy environment, use hearing protection, or face the high likelihood of noise-induced hearing loss.