• The farming population is at a higher risk of hearing loss, but it is preventable.
• It is important for people who work outdoors to have an annual skin cancer screening and perform self-exams.
Farmers and others who work outside for a living need to take extra precautions to protect their ears from loud noises and their skin from the sun.
"The farming population is at a higher risk of hearing loss, but it is preventable," said Carolyn Sheridan, a rural nurse and clinical director for AgriSafe Network. Sheridan spoke at the 92nd annual American Farm Bureau Federation annual meeting earlier this year.
"Hearing loss is painless, progressive, permanent but preventable. It’s important to protect your ears so you don’t damage your hearing," she said.
Donna Kerr, an Amelia County dairy farmer who attended the meeting, said her husband and father-in-law have hearing loss from working around loud farm equipment.
"Most older farmers I know can’t hear well out of their left ear," Kerr said. "When they turned their head to look behind their equipment they damaged their hearing."
Sheridan said hearing protection can allow workers to do a job for longer without noise-induced hearing loss. There are more than 400 types of hearing protection devices available on the market today.
There are also steps farmers can take to protect their skin from sun damage, she noted. In 2010, there were 1 million cases of skin cancer in the United States, which resulted in 1,000 deaths.
"Skin cancer is preventable and curable if it is caught early," Sheridan said. "Skin cancer occurs due to life exposure and usually appears after age 50."
It is important, she said, for people who work outdoors to have an annual skin cancer screening and perform self-exams.
"Look for anything new or anything that looks different, and check yourself from head to toe."
It’s also important to try to stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Sheridan said. If that’s not an option, apply sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15, 20 minutes before heading outside, and remember to reapply it often.
"You should also wear long sleeves, long pants, tightly woven fabrics or clothes that have UV protection, UV-protection sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat with at least a 3-inch brim."