Hearing Health and Lawn Care: Protecting Your Ears At Every Age

Hearing Health and Lawn Care: Protecting Your Ears at Every Age

If you or someone you know has hearing loss, you may understand the impact that hearing issues can have on one’s daily life. Hearing loss affects 60.7 million Americans age 12 and older and these numbers are expected to rise.

Hearing loss can have many different causes. Some may think of hearing loss occurring gradually as we age, which is called presbycusis. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss, which occurs when there is irreversible damage to the hair cells of the inner ear. Sensorineural loss can also occur due to disease, medications, genetic conditions, injury, or exposure to loud noise.

Lawn Mower Hearing Protection

Noise exposure is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, and can affect people of all ages. Most importantly, noise induced hearing loss is the most preventable type of loss.

Research is finding that hearing loss is affecting many at a younger age than ever before, and noise exposure is one of the major contributing factors.

In today’s article I’ll share my professional experience as an Audiologist in an effort to help Lawn Chick readers understand the risk of hearing damage that comes with operating mowers, blowers, and other loud lawn care and landscaping equipment.

I’ll also share some guidance on hearing protection options to help you choose and use the best option to protect your hearing.

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What is Tinnitus?

A symptom commonly associated with hearing loss that can be especially debilitating is a condition called tinnitus, or noises in the ears.

Most people experience a “ringing” or “buzzing” sound, though tinnitus can be any noise in one or both ears. Some patients have described their tinnitus as crickets, static, white noise, ocean waves, and even music. The noise is typically not heard by others, and it may be constant or intermittent.


There can be many causes of tinnitus including high blood pressure, medications, and, most noteworthy, hearing loss.

You may have experienced this sensation briefly after hearing a sudden loud noise or after attending a loud concert.

For some, however, their tinnitus is ongoing and can be quite bothersome.

Much like hearing loss, a single incident of noise exposure at a high level of volume may cause tinnitus.

While there is ongoing and extensive research, it is important to know that there is no cure for tinnitus at this time and it too can occur at any age.

How Lawn Care & Landscaping Tools Can Impact Your Hearing

Lawn mowers, leaf blowers, weed eaters, trimmers and edgers… there is a wide variety of tools and equipment that are readily available to maintain a healthy yard.

While these tools are efficient and oftentimes necessary, they can also emit a high level of noise which can be damaging to your ears.

How Lawn Mowers and Other Landscaping Equipment Can Damage Your Hearing

A general rule of thumb is that the louder the level of noise, the less time you can be exposed to it before damage may occur.

This means that if the noise you’re working around is loud enough, a single incident of noise exposure can cause permanent hearing loss.

This also means if you are working with noisy lawn equipment for long hours in your yard or across multiple yards, ear protection is necessary in protecting your hearing.

Taking time away from the noise every so often can also help.

What Decibel Ratings Are of the Highest Concern?

OSHA regulations require workers who are exposed to 85 decibels (dB) for 8 hours or longer to wear ear protection. This is the level in which permanent damage can occur and cause sensorineural hearing loss.

Standard lawn mowers can operate at levels anywhere between 80-95 dB, so many homeowners may have a mower that puts their hearing at risk.

You may wonder, “How do I know how loud my lawn equipment is?”

A good rule of thumb is that if your equipment is loud enough that you would need to raise your voice significantly in order for someone nearby to hear you, or if the level of noise hurts or causes a muffle sensation in your ears, you need to wear ear protection.

This is a useful guideline you can apply to any situation be it a restaurant, concert, or sporting event.

If you have any pain or ringing noises in your ears after working with loud equipment, be aware that these are signs that some damage has occurred.

About Your Hearing Protection Options

Hearing protection can come in many forms, and below I’ll discuss four quality options.

Ear Plugs

The most common type is foam ear plugs because they are affordable, and easily accessible at drug stores, hardware stores, markets, and pharmacies.

Ear Plugs

They may work well for smaller ear canals due to their pliability.

The most common mistake people make when wearing this type of ear protection is not inserting them correctly. These plugs need to be formed to fit deep inside the canal, which is intimidating for some. Do not worry about them becoming stuck inside the canals as they will expand as they are inserted.

When properly inserted, ear plugs should not be visible when facing forward or protrude too far out of the ears.

These also need to be replaced often as they are not meant to be cleaned.

Ear Muffs

Another style of ear protection are over the ear muffs.

Wearing Ear Muffs While Mowing the Lawn

This option is often the easiest to put on and take off, and can fit comfortably over hearing aids and earphones. Some may find them too bulky or not as comfortable in warmer weather, however.

The common issue with this style is the muffs not covering the ears entirely. This allows noise in and that can result in hearing damage if they don’t seal well.

  • Important Considerations for Wearing Earphones While Mowing – My professional advice is to be very careful if wearing earphones while mowing or doing yard work. Most people increase the volume in order to make up for the surrounding noise. Doing this can be damaging to your hearing as well.
  • Important Considerations For Mowing with Hearing Aids – I also do not advise hearing aid patients to keep their hearing aids on, unless they are able to be muted or turned off. That said, turning off your hearing aids does not adequately protect the hearing you do have – you still need to wear hearing protection while using a mower or other yard tools. This will help you preserve the hearing you still have.

Layered Hearing Protection

Another option I recommend often is a combination of both the in-ear earplugs and the over-ear earmuffs worn in tandem.

Double protection can provide a significant increase in ear protection of 5-10 additional decibels.

This sort of layered hearing protection can also be more reassuring to those who are not sure if one form of protection is fitting sufficiently.

Custom Fit Earpieces

Perhaps the best option for noise protection are custom fit earpieces.

These are typically made of a silicone material and are custom fit for your ears. They are also waterproof.

Obtaining custom fit earpieces to protect your hearing would require a visit to an audiologist who would make impressions of your ear canals.

This can be a more costly option (expect to pay between $120-$300 for each pair) but they last most patients for years and provide the highest protection rating from noise.

My Final Thoughts

Wear Hearing Protection While Mowing

There is an abundance of options for noise protection these days.

My best professional advice is to remember that the best hearing protection is the kind you will wear correctly and consistently.

The good news is that hearing loss due to loud noise exposure is 100% preventable.

Ear protection, frequent breaks, and reduced exposure to noise overall will benefit your ears in the long run.

And if you’d like to learn more, I invite you to explore some of these websites and resources for more information:

  • National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (link)
  • National Council on Aging (link)
  • Hearing Health Foundation (link)
  • Mayo Clinic (link)
  • Occupational Safety and Health Administration – OSHA (link)
  • Center for Disease Control – CDC (link)


Doctor Hope Rowe, Au.D., is a native of Arkansas. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Speech-Language Pathology from the University of Central Arkansas. She received her Doctor of Audiology degree from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Hope has over 12 years of experience with both the adult and pediatric populations in a variety of clinical settings. Hope enjoys providing patient care and staying up to date on the latest research in audiological care.

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