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CCFB News» December 2023

Downwind"Farm Sounds"

12/01/2023 @ 8:30 am | By Bob Rohrer, CCFB Manager

Many times, when I reminisce about the farm, I think about the rural tranquility and peaceful sounds that call to my soul. The breeze rattling corn leaves. The gentle lowing of cattle in the pasture. The squeak of the rope swing in the tree. The purr of the barn cat. Bees buzzing in the breeze during the day. Crickets and katydids chirping at night.


Sure - those serene sounds were a part of the farm but I cannot forget the other, more intense farm noises. Less peaceful but still holding appeal.


There was the 1150 Massey Ferguson tractor I operated in the farm fields frequently during my high school and college years. Its powerful diesel engine had a muffler that didn’t muffle. Its tractor cab was composed of un-insulated steel and glass that I believe was designed to amplify sound. If full body vibration through sound was your thing, that tractor hit the jackpot.


The farm featured industrial sized grain dryers with large motors to generate a heat blast using powerful fans to force drying air through bins filled with grain to take the moisture out of the corn and soybeans. The dryer sounds pounded the brain to the point of chaotic disruption.


The feed grinder, grain augers, batwing mower, honey wagon, grain cart, hay baler, post hole digger and other PTO driven implements all required the tractors engine RPMs to be at a high level to deliver sufficient power for the job at hand. An idling engine was loud enough; full bore was necessary.


The livestock and especially the squealing pigs generated a piercing, shrill sound sufficient to rattle the ear drum (or two), amplified within the walls of the hog buildings. Our pigs did not have off switches.


The farm workshop for repairs and projects was filled with clever noise makers called hand and power tools. Hammers. Drills. Saws – circular, table, chop. Sanders and grinders. Each ready to pump out a distinctive sound vibration.

There were always plenty of small engines around… Lawnmowers. Chainsaws. Leaf blowers. The more intense, the better!

I probably should blame Styx, Foreigner, AC/DC (Not dad’s welder). I did not use earplugs to enjoy the rock music! My parents wanted to.


The rhythm and cacophony of farm life came in all types and sizes. All featuring plenty of decibels.


Apparently, those “other” farm noises and sounds had a compounding “beating” effect on my ear drums over the years. Following years of farm sounds, the net result is that I have a hearing problem.


You hear about selective hearing, especially between spouses. I have joked with my wife that 90% of our conversations are me saying “what?”. I’m not confident that she “appreciates” repeating the same words over and over, each time with an increasing volume. However, it is not selective hearing in my case - it is science. My audiologist tested me and confirmed it. After the test, she said, “you likely have difficulty hearing women’s voices due to the pitch”. Yep… She nailed that one!


Selective or not, most of the farmers that I know suffer from some degree of hearing loss due to the frequent high decibel sounds from the farm. We can count our lucky stars that today, we live in a technically advanced medical society. One of those “hearing horns” from previous centuries are probably not going to be making a comeback.


I recently enjoyed adding to my life the luxury of some small, unintrusive hearing devices. The devices are electronically programmed to amplify those certain pitch frequencies that have been diminished over the years. They are bluetooth enabled for control purposes and to connect directly to the smart phone. Pretty cool!


This newfangled hearing technology is cool but also inconvenient and pricey. Better to save your hearing by wearing hearing protective devices when you are experiencing sound 85 decibels or greater. How do you know what the decibel level is of a noise? There is now available a smart phone app that measures decibel levels. Also, pretty cool!


Those serene, peaceful farm sounds are better when you can hear them.


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