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Noise and hearing loss prevention

Facts

  • Noise-induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable, once acquired, the loss is permanent. About one-third of all Americans with hearing loss lost hearing because of exposure to noise. Many Americans work, play and live around environmental noise that is dangerously loud.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss is a disability that affects people of all age. About 12 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 19 have a noise-induced hearing loss.
  • Noise-induced hearing loss is related to the intensity of the noise and duration of exposure. It can happen without pain and accumulate over a life time, or it can be painful and occur rapidly.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates work environments with noise levels of 85 decibels or more to have hearing conservation programs.
  • Children should be protected of toys so loud they are capable of causing permanent hearing loss.

Noise levels are hazardous when:

  • You have to shout so your voice can be heard.
  • You can't hear someone talking to you from three feet away.
  • You have ringing or pain in your ears during or even after leaving a noisy area.
  • Sounds and/or speech seem "muffled" or distorted after exposure to noise.
  • Others can hear the sound coming from your headset.

Prevention

  • Be aware of the noise level of your surroundings. Recreational activities may pose a risk. Without hearing protection, snowmobiling, motorcycle riding, shooting firearms or fireworks and listening to extremely loud music or movies can damage your hearing.
  • Read the labels of devices that warn of dangerous noise levels. This includes MP3 players.
  • Wear ear protection appropriate for the noise situation. Ear protection is available in a variety of styles, such as expandable foam earplugs, pre-molded reusable earplugs, ear muffs or custom hearing protection devices. The best hearing protector for you will be the one you are willing to wear consistently.
  • Encourage your employer to implement a hearing conservation program.

Noise levels

Examples of sounds and their decibel levels:

  • 30 dB: Whisper, quiet library
  • 40 dB: Quiet room
  • 50 dB: Moderate rainfall
  • 60 dB: Conversations, dishwasher
  • 70 dB: Busy traffic, vacuum cleaner
  • 80 dB: Alarm clock, busy street
  • 90 dB: Lawnmower, shop tools, truck traffic, subway
  • 100 dB: Snowmobile, chainsaw, pneumatic drill
  • 110 dB: Rock music, model airplane
  • 120 dB: Jet plane take-off, car stereo, band practice
  • 130 dB: Jackhammer
  • 140 dB: Firearms, air raid siren, jet engine

Daily exposure limits

Decibel levels and the amount of time it takes for damage to occur:

  • 90 dB: 8 hours
  • 92 dB: 6 hours
  • 95 dB: 4 hours
  • 97 dB: 3 hours
  • 100 dB: 2 hours
  • 102 dB: 1.5 hours
  • 105 dB: 1 hour
  • 110 dB: 30 minutes
  • 115 dB: 15 minutes or less

Ear protection is recommended whenever you are going to be exposed to loud and/or prolonged noise.

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