Farmers lose their hearing at alarming rates

(Medical Xpress)—Bruce Breuninger's 350-acre centennial farm sprawls beneath the ceramic blue sky, quiet but for the occasional bird call and Dudley the dog's aimless barking.

Then Breuninger powers up his front-end loader and breaks the stillness like a jackhammer in church.

Breuninger operates the loader several hours a day, and such constant exposure to dangerously loud noise means the rate of on-the-job for farmers like Breuninger is second only to construction, said Marjorie McCullagh, associate professor at University of Michigan School of Nursing. McCullagh hopes her research project, HEAR on the Farm, changes this trend by developing interventions that help farmers recognize risks and wear protection.

Noise-induced hearing loss is particularly devastating because it's irreversible, and and surgery don't help. Farmers are extremely vulnerable because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn't regulate noise exposure on farms. Scientific findings regarding the prevalence of hearing loss among the estimated 1.3 million farmers nationwide vary greatly, with numbers ranging from 17 percent all the way to 72 percent.

The majority of farmers don't wear hearing protection but do want to learn more about it, McCullagh said. The fact that 90 percent of farmers enrolled in her study are still participating supports this, especially when researchers consider retention rates of 30-to-50 percent highly successful.

"There are no systems in place to help them," McCullagh said. "The are expected to do that on their own."

McCullagh and Michael Cohen, clinical research coordinator, traveled separately to different parts of the country to recruit participants.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

Breuninger, a fourth-generation farmer in Dexter, Mich., and one of 500 study participants nationwide, said he's worn hearing protection—only intermittently—but does suffer some hearing loss.

"I probably didn't wear it as religiously as I do now," said Breuninger, whose 80-year-old father, also a farmer, suffers . "I do worry about my hearing, and I've always tried to impress upon my kids the importance of wearing hearing protection."

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Noise from fireworks threatens young ears

date 20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—The Fourth of July weekend is a time for celebrations and beautiful fireworks displays. But, parents do need to take steps to protect their children's ears from loud fireworks, a hearing expert ...

Many new teen drivers 'crash' in simulated driving task

date 20 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Around four in 10 newly licensed teen drivers "crashed" in a simulated driving test, suggesting that many adolescents lack the skills they need to stay safe on the road, according to a new study.

Insurer Aetna to buy Humana in $35B deal

date 22 hours ago

Aetna will spend about $35 billion to buy rival Humana and become the latest health insurer bulking up on government business as the industry adjusts to the federal health care overhaul.

Feeling impulsive or frustrated? Take a nap

date Jul 03, 2015

Taking a nap may be an effective strategy to counteract impulsive behavior and to boost tolerance for frustration, according to a University of Michigan study.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.