Summer is here, and with it come the familiar sights, scents, and sounds of the season. We all love the smell of fresh cut grass, but the noise emanating from the lawn mowers? Not so much. This may or may not surprise anyone, but the noise from lawn mowers is causing hearing damage to the folks who are doing the mowing.
Gas-powered lawn mowers can reach 90-106 decibels, while the threshold for continuous noise is 85 decibels before hearing damage begins to become an issue. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), 85 decibels over an eight hour day is the maximum permissible in a work environment before hearng is threatened. For every five decibels over 85, those permissible hours are cut in half. Allow me to do the math here: exposure to 90 decibels and permissable (safe) hours drop to four. Ninety-five decibels, two hours. One hundred decibels, and exposure should not last more than one hour.
Most professional lawn care workers do wear hearing protection, but what about weekend mowers? Folks who are mowing their own lawns, and young people mowing neighborhood lawns to earn spending cash? These are the the people who are not as aware (if they are aware at all) of the dangers of prolonged exposure to the mower’s noise.
Compounding the problem? iPods. People are cranking up their iPods so they can hear their music over the blare of the lawn mower. The two sources of loud decibel noise can make for a serious assault on the ear buds.
For many of us, listening to music at full volume is one of the pleasures of mowing the lawn. I am just as guilty as the next person – at least I used to be. I don’t play with fire these days, and I try to protect my hearing at all costs. Hearing protection, in the form of good, industrial ear plugs while you’re mowing the lawn is going to spare your delicate ears a lifetime of trouble.
In addition to the decibel dangers of lawn mowers to their operators, let’s take a look at the effects of lawn mower noise on the neighbors who can’t escape it. In most areas of the country, people have windows open and spend more time outdoors in the summer. But the drone of lawnmowers from morning to night takes a toll on everyone subjected to the sound, whether they know it or not. Lawn mowers can disrupt an otherwise peaceful Sunday afternoon, wake us too early on any given morning, and contribute to the noise pollution that is effecting the health of humans and animals.
Lawn mower noise easily falls into that category of second-hand noise pollution, a term used to describe noise that is experienced by people who did not produce it. There’s a growing school of thought that second-hand noise is as detrimental to our health as second-hand smoke, and even some who consider second-hand noise a civil rights issue.
More and more people are looking for new ways to protect themselves and their families from pervasive noise by installing noise blocking and noise absorbing materials into their homes and offices, and even sound blocking fencing in their yards. But summertime is all about being outdoors, and yet outdoors is becoming less pleasant all the time, especially when you have two or three neighbors mowing at the same time.
For anyone in the market for a new lawnmower who is interested in not contributing to the neighborhood din, check out the chart I came across at a site called PeoplePoweredMachines.com.
With a header that announces “Your lawnmower choice will affect the quality of your neighborhood," the chart offers some detailed options for choosing a quieter lawnmower that might be a welcome change in your neighborood.