Noise and hearing loss prevention
- 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.
- 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.
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.