An audiologist from Sydney, Australia has highlighted the growing problem of farm deafness, commenting, “there are a lot of potentially deaf farmers out there.” Although the study looks at deafness as an issue on Australian farms, the concern is by no means limited and affects other countries across the world.
National Acoustics Laboratories senior research engineer Warwick Williams said the assessment was based on a project that set out to find the extent of farmers’ exposure to hazardous noise.
“Visits were made to working farms in western Victoria and South East Queensland (including dairy, beef, wool, prime lamb, pork and cropping) where noise and dosimetry measurements were undertaken,” Mr Williams said.
“Noise exposure assessments were made through dosimetry and direct measurement of noisy tasks.”
The work was carried out in conjunction with Hamilton’s National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) and the Western District Health Service.
The survey found 51 per cent of respondents had noise exposure levels greater than the recommended Australian Standard of 1.01 Pa2h.
“By extrapolation it can be estimated that 163,000 Australian agricultural workers are daily exposed to noise greater than the recommended Australian Standard, with 18 per cent above or 90 decibels,” Mr Williams said.
“The National Rural Health Alliance found the most significant cause of hearing loss was exposure to excessive noise, accounting for about 37 per cent of cases.
“More than half of Australia’s farmers are likely to suffer from premature hearing loss through occupational noise exposure, such as from agricultural machinery.”
Only 18 per cent of farmers wore hearing protection while working with heavy machinery.
Mr Williams said many farmers did not acknowledge they had a problem until it was brought to their attention.
The aim of the report was to raise the issue to assist farmers in managing it.
“I want to make people aware there is a problem so we give them feedback that there is an issue here and try to manage it,” Mr Williams said.
“If you are going to buy a new tractor, buy a quieter one.
“Make noise reduction one of the specifications.
“Don’t import the problem in the first place.
“Don’t use a chainsaw if there are half a dozen people around you watching and you are the only one using personal protective equipment.”
He said industry practices which would have a particular effect on hearing included maintenance such as welding and grinding, shearing and even feeding pigs.
Getting people to wear hearing protection is a start Mr Williams said.
If you have suffered from occupational deafness, please contact us today on 0800 294 3065, or talk to us on live chat where we will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.