By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation
Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. From a single shot fired from a shotgun experienced at close range to repeated exposure to loud machinery over an extended period of time, loud noises can present a serious health risk. No matter if damage occurs instantaneously, like with the shotgun, or over time in a work setting, the damage to your ears is often permanent and irreversible. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.
October is recognized as National Protect Your Hearing Month by the National Safety Council. Nearly 20 to 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work each year and approximately 10 million people in the United States have permanent hearing loss from noise or trauma. Unfortunately, the risk and harmful effects of noise on hearing are often underestimated because the damage takes place so gradually. Implementing the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) reduces the noise exposure level and the risk of hearing loss. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, if the noise or sound level at the workplace exceeds 85 decibels (A-weighted), a person should wear a hearing protector. An A-weighted system is an expression of the relative loudness of sounds in air as perceived by the human ear. The decibel values of sounds at low frequencies are reduced, compared with unweighted decibels, in which no correction is made for audio frequency.
In recent years, the Progressive Agriculture Foundation teamed up with the National Institutes of Health, in partnership with the University of Michigan and Dangerous Decibels®, to develop a hearing safety chapter for use at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®. The primary goal with this curriculum is providing early intervention with youth and initiating the conversation on hearing safety from a young age. During a station at a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, participants learn that hearing loss is preventable and distinguish between safe and dangerous noise levels through identifying common farm and rural sources of dangerous noise. Additionally, participants learn to demonstrate how to use distance to reduce noise levels and the use of hearing protectors through a variety of hands-on activities and demonstrations. Three key messages reinforced are:
- Protect your Ears by wearing earplugs or earmuffs
- Walk Away from loud noises
- Turn it Down by lowering the volume
Take a moment and reflect on the noises you encounter on a day-to-day basis. What are you doing to protect your ears and avoid hearing loss? Remember, don’t put your hearing health to the test, but rather invest in protection or walk away to give your ears much needed rest!
Hearing Safety is one of more than 30 topics that are covered annually at Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®. With more than 400 events taking place each year, Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® is recognized as the largest rural safety and health education program for children in North America. For more information or to locate a Safety Day near you, visit www.progresiveag.org or call us toll-free at 888-257-3529. Help send another child to a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® with a modest donation of only $13. Donate by texting the word “SAFETYDAY” to 41444 or visit progressiveag.org/Donate.
Photo: During Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®, like this one held in North Dakota, participants use sound meters to learn about the noise levels of common household items, from a kitchen blender to a vacuum cleaner.