Hearing Loss in Groundskeepers and Landscapers

Hearing loss has lifelong effects which can include difficulty communicating, increased risk of injury on the job, including hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and even cardiovascular issues, including mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Sunshine brings the busy season for those in the grounds management professions, which includes landscaping, tree care, and horticulture. This summer work means breaking out tools that can create loud noise: lawn mowers, edgers, chainsaws, chippers — just to name a few.

NIOSH has published the first of two blogs providing basic information for grounds management professions about how to identify dangerous levels of noise exposure and what to do to protect themselves and others from the harmful effects of noise.

An estimated 912,360 people in the U.S. are employed as landscapers or groundskeepers, with another 100,320 employed as first-line supervisors of landscaping, lawn service, and groundskeeping workers.

For these people who regularly use tools that create hazardous noise, hearing loss can be a real concern. Landscapers and groundskeepers are not alone; each year approximately 22 million workers in the U.S. are exposed to potentially damaging noise.

The effects of living with chronic tinnitus can range from annoying to completely debilitating. Repeated noise exposure can also lead to permanent hearing loss.

Hearing loss is considered one of the most common occupational injuries in the United States, and carries high personal and societal cost and yet it is preventable.

Noise is considered hazardous when it is 85 dBA or above.

The following table lists the noise levels of equipment used by groundskeepers and landscapers:

Tool                      Noise Level (dBA)
Push Mower        86-92
Riding Mower     88-96
Leaf blower         95-106
Edger                      98-106
Chipper                 102-106
Chainsaw             105-109

Explore the NIOSH noise and hearing loss page to learn more about hazardous noise levels and your health. Check back next week for Part 2 of this series to learn strategies to reduce your noise exposure.