July 2017 Safety Topic: Hearing Protection

“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 loss of hearing, 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. Decibels are measured on a scale similar to the scale that is 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.

Some sound level examples include the following:

Normal conversation = 60 dBA

Vacuum Cleaner = 85 dBA

Push Lawnmower = 95 dBA

Table saw = 100 dBA

Chainsaw = 105 dBA

The most efficient way to control noise is to either 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 noise level 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 three 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, this may indicate being exposed to too much noise.

If speech or music sounds muffled to you after you leave work, but it sounds fairly 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.

If you think you might need hearing protection in your workplace, please speak with your supervisor and a member of the Campus Life Safety & Regulatory Compliance team so that an assessment can promptly take place.