University of Wisconsin–Madison

Audiology Takes on Rural Noise

Dr. Melanie Buhr-Lawler, Audiologist at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, hands out earplugs at the tractor pull.
Dr. Melanie Buhr-Lawler, Audiologist at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, hands out earplugs at the tractor pull.

UWSHC audiologists and Au.D. students travel to rural Wisconsin each summer for a unique goal: to prevent hearing loss at the Tomah Truck and Tractor Pull. Tractor pulls are motorsports with powerful, modified engines, and they are LOUD! The UW audiologists were inspired to develop this outreach project by a passion for the Wisconsin Idea and the desire to prevent hearing loss in rural farmers. Many people at the Tomah Tractor Pull work on farms and have noisy hobbies such as hunting, but they are not reached by traditional hearing conservation programs.  Since 2014, the UW outreach group has handed out approximately 12, 500 pair of earplugs at the event. Each year, the group talks with tractor pull attendees and participants to promote healthy hearing habits that extend into the work and other noisy hobbies. They also measures noise levels at the pull (which reach 128 decibels!) and use that information to educate the public on rural noise and the importance of hearing loss prevention.

Related Resources

For more information and to enjoy some of the media attention given to this special initiative, check out:

UW Madison Campus Media

This initiative has been featured in several campus and alumni publications, including a video feature on Big Ten Network.

Non-custom hearing protection that is commonly used in noisy occupational settings.

State & National Publications

The UW Audiology tractor pull outreach has received media attention from state and nation-wide publications.

Seminars & Presentations

Clinical faculty and students from the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders travel throughout the community to raise awareness.

Audiology Journals

By extending hearing healthcare beyond the walls of the traditional audiology clinic, an audiology outreach program demonstrates genuine professional care about the well-being of individuals throughout the state.