Amid the gigantic machinery at the KMOT Ag Expo last week was a small booth that offered some advice worth listening to.
Nicole Myers, a hearing instrument specialist, was at the Professional Hearing Services booth to talk about hearing and the importance of protecting it.
"We're here to promote hearing protection. Most often after being exposed to a bunch of noise, the higher frequencies of your hearing are usually what are first damaged by high-frequency noise such as tractors and different types of power tools in the shop," Myers said. "It's very important to protect your hearing because usually the first thing that you'll notice when you do have some high-frequency hearing loss is that you can hear people, but you can't understand the words."
Along with tractors and combines, grain augers are a common tool used on farms that can cause hearing damage. In the shop, there are obviously plenty of power tools that can do the same, but Myers said even the common hammer is capable of harming a person's hearing if it is used repetitively without ear protection.
"Any of those things that are really loud and make you kind of want to flinch, that's when you should wear hearing protection," she said. "Another thing, if you have a large yard and you're on a riding mower or push mower for a long period of time, definitely use it then, as well."
Just as it's never too early for someone to start wearing hearing protection, Myers said it's also never too late. Even if there is some hearing loss, she said it's important to preserve the hearing that is left, because while it can get even worse, it will never get any better.
"You want to protect as much hearing as you can at whatever point there is," Myers said.
Myers said they used to attend the Ag Expo a number of years ago, took some time off, and have been attending again the past three or four years. She said they have had a pretty good response from the public since their return to the Ag Expo, even if some people are a little more unwilling than others to hear what Myers has to say.
"More wives are stopping and dragging their husbands over than anything, but they're at least trying to get the information," Myers said.
One of the most common questions Myers gets is what product offers the best hearing protection. The answer depends on the environment the plugs will be used in and what type of performance the wearer needs.
"There are many different types. There are the foam earplugs that you just kind of roll up and insert into your ears. There are earmuffs that go over your head, the big muffs. And those are good, but they just need to be inserted properly," Myers said. "Also custom earplugs are available. They are made from an impression that is casted of your ear. So we know that when those are put in, those are going to work the best because they are fit for your ear and they will block the sound out."
For more information about ear protection go online to (heardakota.com) or call Professional Hearing Services at 852-6565 or 1-800-735-5866. The Minot office is located at 1400-37th Ave. SW.
The solid ear plugs are obviously the best at blocking out all noise in the environment, but Myers said there are better options for people who still need to hear on occasion, like when they are speaking with a coworker.
"You can get them where they have a filter in them, so that you can hear speech. It will be a little softer than normal, but you can still hear it," she said. "And then when a loud sound such as a hammer or if you're working around the auger, when those loud sounds come into play, the loud sounds will be dampened so that they don't damage your hearing."
She said earplugs with filters are also good options for hunters or sports shooters who want to speak with each other without having to take the plugs out.
Myers noted the filters are built right into the earplug itself and do not require batteries, which makes them just as convenient to use as regular earplugs.
"In a custom earplug it's built into there, there's nothing you do with it," Myers said. "You just use the earplugs as you normally would - put them in, take them out, that sort of thing."
Myers said they weren't at Ag Expo to sell products, and only had some earplugs on hand for display purposes. She said their goal was to inform as many people as possible about the importance of protecting their hearing, no matter what age they were or how much hearing they had already lost.
"(We've) been answering some questions today and giving out some information, trying to be here to just inform people about the importance of protecting your hearing," Myers said.