Need: Farmers are highly susceptible to permanent hearing loss due to prolonged exposure to loud machinery and livestock.
Intervention: Faculty and students from the audiology department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison supplied earplugs, free hearing testing, and hearing loss prevention education to attendees and participants at an annual tractor pull event.
Results: Between 2014 and 2019, the audiology team distributed more than 16,000 pairs of earplugs; attendees were receptive to the hearing loss prevention education provided by the team.
Faculty and graduate students from the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders
developed an initiative to reach out to rural farmers and
tractor pull fans on the issue of permanent hearing loss.
An audiology team attended the Tomah Tractor Pull
annually from 2014 to 2019, in order to hand out hearing
protection and educate the attendees and participants,
particularly farmers, on the risks of prolonged,
unprotected exposure to high-decibel noises coming from
tractors, other loud machinery, and even livestock.
A team of two audiology clinical professors
(audiologists) and audiology graduate students talked
with tractor pull attendees, participants, and workers
about healthy hearing habits and distributed hearing
protection at this very loud event.
The grant money allowed the team to purchase an
audiometer and calibrated sound level meter, which
enabled them to measure the sound levels of the trucks
and tractors throughout the event. This helped raise
awareness of hearing loss by showing this visual display
of high-decibel activity to the attendees and educating
people on what decibel levels call for ear protection.
This program accomplished two goals:
Gave an immediate means of hearing protection
(earplugs) to people at risk for hearing loss
Educated attendees on ways to
prevent permanent, noise-induced hearing loss
Program staff also informed the tractor pull attendees on
the cumulative nature of hearing and the precautions one
should take to protect hearing, even at an older age, to
prevent further damage.
For more information on the audiology team's successful
There is an ingrained cultural attitude among tractor
pull attendees that discourages the use of hearing
protection in this environment. Additionally, many of the
attendees experience high levels of noise exposure in
their work and other recreational activities. Most
farmers are not required to participate in a mandatory
hearing loss prevention program, so there are many at the
tractor pull who have not considered using hearing
protection as an important safety factor.
Program coordinators recommend securing grant funding or
financial support and a supportive employer. It's also
important to establish a community partnership with the
event organizers, since their support is invaluable in
guaranteeing program success, and to have energetic and
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information
about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The
programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural
community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s
needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep
in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.