TRANGIE AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH CENTRE: Agricultural machinery, tools, tractors, squealing pigs in sheds at feeding time - they are all contributing to hearing loss among Australian farmers at a huge cost to the rural economy.
NSW Department of Primary Industries livestock officer, Bib Kilgour, said hearing protection, earmuffs and plugs, were readily available.
“Recent research shows that more than half of Australia’s farmers are likely to suffer from premature hearing loss through occupational noise exposure,” Mr Kilgour said.
“The numbers are staggering with almost all farmers over the age of 55 who have been exposure to loud noise suffering some degree of hearing loss.
“This hearing loss is largely preventable and the most alarming statistic is that only 18 per cent of farmers wear hearing protection while working with heavy machinery.”
Mr Kilgour said many farmers probably didn’t realise how quickly and easily permanent damage was done.
“Thirty seconds on a chainsaw with no hearing protection can be enough to inflict permanent damage,” he said.
“Just think about the little jobs you do where you may not bother to put on the earmuffs.
“Knocking two or three lengths of wood off that log for the fire tonight or cutting up a bit of steel with the angle grinder, could severely affect your hearing.”
Mr Kilgour said while there was a fair bit of debate and attention given to rollover protection on quad bikes, industrial deafness from farming was seldom mentioned.
“Hearing loss and deafness is a much more insidious farm health and safety issue as it directly affects so many people,” he said. Government agency, Australian Hearing, has reported that hearing loss costs the economy close to $12 billion a year with almost 160,000 people not working because they can’t hear well enough.