Headphones for noise protection

Hearing Protection

September 2021 Safety Topic

September 1, 2021

Noise is generally defined as unwanted sound that can affect job performance, safety, and your health. Psychological effects of noise include annoyance and disruption of concentration. Physical effects include hearing loss, pain, nausea, and interference with communications when the exposure is severe.

Noise levels are measured in decibels (dBA). Normal conversation ranges between 60-65 dBAs. OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an 8-hour day. Decibels are measured on a scale similar to the scale used to measure earthquakes. Therefore, as the decibels increase only slightly, the noise increases dramatically.  For example, 73 decibels are twice as loud as 70.

The most efficient way to control noise is to control it at the source or create a considerable distance from the source.  If this is not possible due to the type of task being performed, hearing protection can be used to mitigate the hazard that is created by loud noises.  Earplugs and earmuffs may be used to provide a physical barrier that reduces inner ear noise levels exposure to the inner ear and prevents hearing loss from occurring.

Signs that you should be wearing hearing protection include the following:

  • If you need to raise your voice for someone 3 feet away to hear you, the site is too noisy and you need hearing protection. You need hearing protection also if you’re operating on or near noisy equipment.
  • If you have roaring or ringing noises in your ears at the end of the workday, it may indicate being exposed to too much noise.
  • If speech or music sounds muffled to you after you leave work, but it sounds relatively clear in the morning when you return to work, this may indicate too much exposure to high noise levels that are causing a temporary hearing loss.

For more information or questions or concerns aboput hearing protection, please speak with your supervisor or contact a member of the Campus Life Safety and Regulatory Compliance team, and we will schedule an assessment.