lawn mower

Yard work can damage hearing: What can you do to protect it?

Yard work is fundamental to the summer experience.

During the cold months, people spend most of their time indoors, so it’s tough to get the basic outdoor projects done. But, as the weather warms and the grass starts to grow, it’s tempting to grab all the tools necessary for yard maintenance and jump in without ear protection. Some eager folks will argue that getting the job done quickly is worth more than the time lost taking those extra precautions, and while the negative effects that come as a result of this may not be immediate, their accumulation over a short amount of time will almost certainly become permanent and detrimental to their way of life.

To understand the complexities of this issue, this blog will go over why hearing health is important to think of during yard work, and how one can take steps to protect themselves from the noises that come as a result.

From the outside, our ears look like simple appendages that funnel sound, but take a look inside and a whole world of complex mechanisms and features is revealed. One feature that’s important to the topic of today is stereocilia. 

Stereocilia are tiny-hair cells that convert the physical force of sound into electrical signals which are then transmitted to your brain, and while they are incredibly fascinating, they are also very delicate. When loud sounds enter the ear canal, stereocilia can become damaged, and once they are damaged, they cannot regenerate. This is one of the causes of permanent hearing loss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA,) states that hearing protection is required if a worker is exposed to 85 dB of noise for eight hours or more. That’s the equivalent of being in a typical outdoor environment, close to the freeway, urban transit or a major airport. 

Depending on the type, lawn mowers can fluctuate between 85 and 100 dB. Leaf blowers and weed whackers are the same, but if any of these power tools float within the 95-100 dB range, their user can experience permanent hearing damage in as little as 15 minutes. This is especially important for self-employed landscapers who don’t have supervisors to regulate these important health precautions.

So, what do these safety and professional organizations suggest doing to protect our ears from loud noises?

The best thing workers can do is wear proper hearing protection. That may come in the form of foam ear buds or ear muffs which can be purchased inexpensively at any local drug or hardware store. Another option could be to take a break. Letting our ears relax after sustaining the force of sound for an extended period of time is very important. Finally, while listening to music or an audiobook might keep us entertained while working, it does not protect us. Rather than drown out the noise from outside, airpods or beats can heighten the damage to our inner-ear cells.

Yard work is fun. It’s an excuse to go outside, enjoy the fresh summer air and listen to the world around you in moments of rest, but to get the most out of this wonderful season, it’s important to protect your hearing as much as your skin. If you don’t, the breaks you take in the future will never feel as special as they did in the beginning but keep yourself protected, and every moment of peace will feel as wonderful as the one before it.


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