Say What? Check the Noise Level

A color photo of the screen from a NIOSH app to measure sound levels.

A screenshot of the NIOSH SLM measuring sound levels an office.

March 3rd is World Hearing Loss Day. The day aims to raise awareness and promote ear and hearing care across the world.  Evidence is clear that there are a variety of agricultural jobs with hazardous noise exposure levels.

For example, the other day I was working in a Sand Separator Building. When a fan kicked on, I immediately realized noise level in the building had changed significantly.  Recently, I had installed the NIOSH Sound Level Meter (NIOSH SLM) App on my iPad. I used the NIOSH SLM APP to check the noise level and it reached  94 db(a).  At about 85dB(A) sound levels start to cause hearing loss.

NIOSH occupational hearing loss surveillance has found:

  • In the United States, hearing loss is the third-most common chronic physical condition among adults after hypertension and arthritis.
  • About 11% of the U.S. working population has hearing difficulty.
  • About 24% of the hearing difficulty among U.S. workers is caused by occupational exposures.
  • About 8% of the U.S. working population has tinnitus (‘ringing in the ears’) and 4% has both hearing difficulty and tinnitus.

Agricultural work sites can have hazardous workplace noise. Field and farmstead machines, motors, pumps, fans, and  power tools may be creating  high noise exposures for workers that require hearing protection.  Measuring the sound level helps determine the right hearing protection needed for the worker.

The NIOSH SLM app provides a readout of the sound level using the built-in microphone from the iOS devic3e. It provides an instantaneous sound level (dB) reading as well as Time Weighted Average (TWA) and dose. Information can be saved and stored. The app also has some noise and hearing loss prevention information.  Currently, it is only available for iOS devices. The NIOSH Sound Level Meter App (NIOSH SLM App)  is available from the App Store or additional information can be found at cdc.gov under Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention.

Hearing loss is preventable. Take action on March 3 and use the free NIOSH SLM app to check sound levels in your agricultural workplace.

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University of Wisconsin-Extension