Text Equivalent of Have You Heard? Hearing Loss Caused by Farm Noise is Preventable: Young Farmer’s Guide for Selecting and Using Hearing Protection PDF

[Photos of a man on a riding lawn mower, a teenager driving an ATV, a person in a large tractor, and a person sawing down a tree.]

[Logos of Department of Health and Human Services, USA; CDC Workplace Safety and Health; and NIOSH]

Common Noise Levels

Exposure to noise above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss and tinnitus.

An illustrated chart shows zero to 150 decibels, with a line extending up the chart at 85 decibels. Noises that are too loud include (listed decibel levels are approximate):

  • Gunshot: 150 decibels
  • Firecrackers: 135 decibels
  • Grain dryer: 115 decibels
  • Chain saw: 110 decibels
  • Rock band: 105 decibels
  • Circular saw: 105 decibels
  • Squealing pig: 100 decibels
  • Tractor: 100 decibels
  • Hand drill: 100 decibels
  • Combine: 100 decibels
  • Table saw: 100 decibels

The following noises are below 85 decibels (listed decibel levels are approximate):

  • Enclosed tractor: 75 decibels
  • Normal conversation: 60 decibels

Buying Hearing Protection

Hearing protection is available from many sources, including on the internet and in home improvement and farm stores.

Remember, size matters! Not every earplug fits every ear. You may even need a different size for each ear. If you can’t get at least half of the plug into the ear canal, or if it can’t expand enough to stay firmly seated, you need a different size.

Earmuffs may work well for you. These are often worn during hunting and shooting. Some have a built-in radio as well as electronic circuits to limit the noise. They allow you to listen to your favorite sports or music. They are usually easy to fit and convenient to put on and take off. They can also make great gifts. However, if you wear glasses, earrings, or have facial hair, ear plugs may be a better choice to ensure proper fit and sound reduction.

Photos showing the different types of hearing protection:

  • Formable: They look like squishy foam. One picture shows a pair without a cord connecting them. The other picture shows a pair connected with a thin cord that you can drape over your neck to keep from losing them.
  • Earmuffs: The headband goes over your head and has a portion on each side to cover each ear on the outside.
  • Pre-molded: One pair looks like ear-sized open umbrellas. The other pair looks like a stem with three open umbrellas becoming gradually smaller.

Replace your ear plugs or the seals of your ear muffs when they look worn or feel different.

Fitting Formable Plugs

Size matters. To fit properly, a formable plug should be inserted so that most of the plug fits into the ear canal. While many formable plugs are “one size fits most,” different sizes are available. If you can’t get at least half of the plug into the ear canal, or if the plug can’t expand enough to stay firmly seated, you need a different size.

  • First, roll the formable plug between your thumb and forefingers to compress it into a small, smooth, round cylinder. [Illustration of a hand rolling a plug.]
  • Second, reach over the top of your head and pull up or back on the top of your ear. This straightens out your ear canal so the plugs can go in far enough. [Illustration of a man performing this action.]
  • Third, insert tightly rolled plug into straightened ear canal.
  • Last, hold the ear plug in place for a few seconds after inserting to give it time to expand and seat itself in the ear canal.

Remember, the plug must be rolled down tightly before you try to insert it into your ear canal. You shouldn’t try to push a formable plug into your ear if you have not rolled it tight enough. [Illustration of a plug fitting smoothly in the ear canal, with text that says, “Correct.” Illustration of a plug that looks bumpy and isn’t in the ear canal very far, with text that says, “Incorrect. This plug needed to be rolled down more tightly.”]

When you remove the plug, check to make sure there is a slight bend. The bend means the earplug was inserted deeply enough to reach the bend in the ear canal. [Illustration of a hand holding an earplug that looks smooth and has a slight bend in it, with text that says, “Good fit”.] There should be no creases in the earplug. [Illustration of a hand holding an earplug that looks creased and clumpy, with text that says, “Poor fit.”]

Although considered disposabe, formable plugs can be washed and used repeatedly.

Fitting Pre-molded Plugs

[Photo of an ear plug inserted into an ear, with no visible gaps. Text says, “Correct. This plug completely seals the ear canal opening.” Photo of an ear plug inserted with visible gaps. Text says, “Incorrect. This plug is too large or has not been fully inserted, leaving gaps where noise can leak through.”]

Pre-molded plugs may come in different sizes or as “one size fits most.” Try out different sizes to find the ear plug that fits you best.

  • First, reach over the top of your head and pull up or back on the top of your ear. This straightens out your ear canal so the plugs can go in far enough. [Illustration of a man performing this action.]
  • Second, insert pre-molded plug into straightened ear canal.

With a pre-molded plug, you can perform the “tug test.” To do this, gently pull in and out on the stem of the earplug. As you do so, you should feel pressure changes in your ear canal to confirm you have a good fit. Do not pull hard enough to break the seal.

Pre-molded plugs are reusable. Most can be easily washed using mild soap. Make sure they are completely dry before storing them in their case or using them in your ear. Using wet plugs can irritate ear canals.

Fitting Canal Caps

Canal caps are formable or pre-molded earplugs attached to a headband. Depending on the design, headbands may be worn over the head, behind the neck or under the chin. The headband allows canal caps to be hung around the neck when not being used. This makes them convenient to use when noise is not constant and you are taking your earplugs in and out frequently. Fitting and using canal caps is otherwise similar to fitting and using formable and pre-molded plugs.

Tips on Using Hearing Protection

  • When an earplug is properly inserted, your voice will sound deeper or louder.
  • To check your fit, cup your hands over your ears and make a good seal. Count out loud while slowly cupping and uncupping your ears. If you have a good fit, your voice should sound about the same as you cup and uncup your ears. Try this with and without plugs. Hear the difference?
  • Use clean hands when inserting ear plugs, especially when rolling down formable plugs. Dirt can irritate your ears. When clean hands are not possible, ear muffs or pre-molded plugs with stems can be a better option.
  • When removing an earplug, slowly twist the plug to break the seal. If you pull the earplug out quickly without first gently breaking the airtight seal, you could harm your ear.

Credits: The graphics used to illustrate fitting ear plugs were provided courtesy of Elliott Berger, Senior Scientist, Auditory Research E-A-R/Aearo Company.

“I expected to lose my hearing…but I thought it would be quiet.”

If you are around noise at work, at home, or doing the things that you enjoy, you need to protect your ears. If you don’t, you can expect to develop permanent hearing loss. You may also develop a permanent ringing, buzzing or roaring in your ears known as Tinnitus.

They’re your ears, PROTECT THEM.

For additional copies, questions, or comments related to this brochure, email farm.noise@cdc.gov

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DHHS-(NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-176

Department of Health and Human Services; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Safer ● Healthier ● People ™