FORMER Ireland rugby captain Rory Best and his farming father John Best have teamed up with Specsavers this Farm Safety Week, to highlight the impact that excessive noise exposure can have on your hearing.
Agricultural workers experience one of the highest rates of hearing loss caused by loud noises on the farm.
With over 137,500 farms in Ireland and more than a quarter of a million people working in agriculture in Ireland, Rory and John are encouraging people to address any hearing issues they are experiencing and to protect their hearing from loud noise.
Farms can be very noisy work environments with a number of daily tasks exposing farmers to excessive noise at decibel levels that can cause serious damage.
Joining forces with Specsavers’ expert audiologists, Rory is keen to raise awareness of this important issue among the wider farming community in Ireland.
‘A son of a farmer and now a farmer myself, I know the risks on the farm that can have a serious impact on a person’s hearing. From machinery to the sounds of the farm animals, there are so many potential hazards for people to be mindful of.
They may seem like every day sounds from the farm but continuous exposure to these sounds, especially without hearing protection, can cause long term and irreversible damage.’
Rory’s father John Best is one of the many people in the farming community who has hearing loss as a result of his working life on the farm.
Fortunately, John sought help from Specsavers and has noticed a huge difference in his personal and working life after being fitted with hearing aids.
‘I went to Specsavers about a year ago when I found myself starting to struggle to hear full sentences and missing what some of my grandchildren were saying to me,’ he explains.
‘Seeking help and getting the hearing aids has been life changing. It’s given me a fuller and richer quality of life off the farm and it’s actually helped me to feel safer on the farm too, confident in my hearing when discussing a particular job.’
John says there are many who are reluctant to wear hearing protection on a farm, but it’s so important to protect your hearing from damage. He wishes he had done so earlier.
‘I’ve worked on a farm all of my life. Back in the day, you wouldn’t believe the noise of a tractor! Thankfully we have seen so many advances in managing noise on the farm, however there are still some very real risks out there.
“But being proactive about protecting your hearing to these risks wouldn’t be a top priority for many.’
Rory has also noticed an impact on his hearing and wishes he had acted sooner. On a recent hearing test at Specsavers, he was told by the expert team that he did have some issues with particular pitches. The damage caused was likely as a result of his time on the farm, while not wearing protection.
‘Using hearing protection just wasn’t a major concern when I was younger on the farm. You just took your hearing for granted and assumed you’d be fine.
“I failed to use hearing protection and I’ve already noticed the impact of that now at the age of 38. I’m thankful now that I’m older and wiser, I can now ensure hearing protection is part of my daily safety check when on the farm.
“I’d encourage any young lads working on farms to really think about their approach to protecting their hearing and the impact that ignoring it can have on their future.’
Hearing loss is experienced by around one in six Irish adults and affects people of all ages. Hearing loss in the work place is a common and preventable injury and this is why the Bests and Specsavers are speaking up this Farm Safety Week.
Orla Wash, Specsavers Ireland audiologist, says: ‘We are on a mission this year to break down the stigma often associated with hearing loss, having a more honest and open conversation about this important health issue.
“This conversation started when we launched our Hearing Awareness month in April promoting our free hearing aids with PRSI and it’s a conversation we’re continuing today with Farm Safety Week.
‘With such a high proportion of Irish people working in farming or having friends of loved ones working in farming, we wanted to raise awareness about the potential impact of noise on the farm.
Farms can be very dangerous places with so many hazards around the corner that often hearing is down the bottom of the safety checklist. However, hearing is one of our most important senses and we must protect it.’
Anyone who has any concern over their hearing should book an appointment at their local store for a free hearing test.
Specsavers also stocks a wide range of hearing protection products, from instant fit hearing plugs to custom fit devices that are exactly matched to the shape of an ear.
Following changes to the PRSI scheme by the Department of Social Protection, those eligible for the benefit can now avail of a pair of hearing aids up to the value of €1,000 or put their PRSI contribution towards the cost of a more expensive pair of hearing aids at Specsavers.
Even with a Medical Card, many will also have PRSI entitlements which would make them eligible for a free pair of hearing aids. With hearing aids available from just €600 at Specsavers, this is the very first time people can claim free hearing aids under the scheme.
Rory finishes: ‘I would encourage anyone who may be struggling with their hearing to speak to Specsavers and see how they might be help them in their hearing journey.
“I know getting an annual check-up gives me great comfort in my own hearing and for my dad, John, he loves his hearing aids. It’s great to see him living his full life, easily engaging with his grandkids. No one should take their hearing for granted but more importantly no one should accept their hearing loss as a part of life.’
For more information or to book an appointment visit www.specsavers.ie.