By Jeff Hutchins, Industrial Hygiene Technical Advisor
The holiday season is filled with a variety of sounds, from singing children to ringing bells. But if you have difficulty hearing those children’s voices, or if there is ringing in your ears even when no bells are present, then you may be one of the approximately 10 million workers with noise-related hearing loss.1
Noise-related hearing loss is a painless, progressive and irreversible condition that is common in the United States. In addition to hearing loss and tinnitus (chronic ringing in the ears), noise exposure above 85 decibels (dB) has also been shown to cause elevated blood pressure, sleep disturbances and other stress-related illnesses.2
Nearly 22 million American workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels every year1, and reducing noise exposure among Ohio’s workforce is one of the goals of the BWC Industrial Hygiene (IH) staff. We conduct noise assessments of Ohio workplaces and recommend ways to reduce excessive noise levels. Noise control measures may include enclosing a noisy machine or process, dampening vibrating surfaces, or silencing compressed air releases.
As a rule of thumb, when normal speech communication between individuals 3 – 4 feet apart becomes difficult, the noise level is approaching hazardous levels. The chart below shows the noise levels of some common sounds.
When control measures alone cannot reduce the noise to acceptable levels, we assist employers in instituting a hearing conservation program. A hearing conservation program contains elements to assure that employees:
- Have regular hearing evaluations called audiograms;
- Are provided proper hearing protection such as ear plugs or ear muffs;
- Receive training about the actions they need to take to protect their hearing.
More information can be found in the BWC Educational Guide “What is Hearing Conservation?”
This holiday season, don’t take for granted the gift of good hearing. In 2016 , resolve to protect your hearing for years to come.
- NIOSH – Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention page (http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/stats.html)
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety – OSH Answers Fact Sheets “Noise – Non-Auditory Effects” (http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/phys_agents/non_auditory.html)