You are here

A Call for Hearing Protection in Rural America

September 21, 2000


Harvestors, tractors without cabins, pig sheds, sprayers, worn out machinery, combines, roosters, and hunters produce the sounds of rural America. They announce the seasons, shape the landscape, and prepare for the future. But the sounds also do something else: They damage hearing. In fact, studies show that nearly half of older farmers have hearing loss, and by age 17, many agricultural workers have already damaged their hearing. This hearing loss is irreversible. But it's also 100 percent preventable.

During National Hunting and Fishing Day, which is September 23, 2000, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) wants Americans living in rural areas to know that prolonged exposure to any noise above 90 decibels (dB) can cause gradual hearing loss. Translation? If you have to shout to be heard from three feet away, the noise is too loud for your ears. Grab some earplugs, special muffs, or canal caps to protect your hearing. Properly fitted earplugs or muffs reduce noise 15 to 30 dB. When used together, they pack on an additional 10 to 15 dB worth of protection. Considering cotton balls? Forget about it. Cotton balls and tissue only reduce noise by about 7 dB.

Hunters and target shooters have an even more immediate risk for hearing loss. A single gunshot generates the same deafening effect as 40 continuous hours of loud rock music, and according to one study, some 30 percent of target shooters and 95 percent of hunters don't protect their ears.

You can protect your family and yourself from noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Wear hearing protection when using firearms and other noisy equipment.
  • Keep children away from loud machinery when motors are running.
  • Protect your ears and your children's ears when working with livestock.
  • Tell others how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss.

NIDCD has teamed with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and more than 70 government agencies, public organizations, businesses, industries, unions, and groups advocating for children and older Americans to establish the WISE EARS!®health education campaign. The goal is to increase awareness that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, hearing matters, and WISE EARS! can last a lifetime.

You can: get answers on hearing questions; read about campaign activities; tour the Kids and Teachers page; use the interactive sound ruler; and find resources to prevent noise-induced hearing loss in your community.

For more information about how to prevent noise-induced hearing loss or about the WISE EARS!®campaign, call (301) 827-8183 or call the toll free number 1-800-241-1044.

Last Updated Date: 
September 21, 2000