Warning Signs of Hazardous Noise
You must raise your voice to be
You can't hear someone two feet
away from you
Speech around you sounds
muffled or dull after leaving a noise area
You have pain or ringing on
your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise.
Sounds louder than
80 decibels are considered potentially dangerous. Both the amount of
noise and the length of time of exposure determine the amount of damage.
Hair cells of the inner ear and the hearing nerve can be damaged by an
intense brief impulse, like an explosion, or by continuous and/or
repeated exposure to noise.
Examples of noise
levels considered dangerous by experts are a lawnmower, a rock concert,
firearms, firecrackers, headset listening systems, motorcycles,
tractors, household appliances (garbage disposals, blenders, food
processors/choppers, etc.) and noisy toys. All can deliver sound over 90
decibels and some up to 140 decibels. If these were prolonged, then it
could hurt our hearing. Read more information on noisy
Can't my ears "adjust" and "get used" to regular noise?
think you have "gotten used to" the noise you are routinely exposed to,
then most likely you have already suffered damage and have acquired a
permanent hearing loss. Noise induced hearing loss is usually gradual
and painless, but, unfortunately, permanent. Once destroyed, the hearing
nerve and its sensory nerve cells do not regenerate!
The most notable
physical effect of noise exposure is loss of hearing . Noise
Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) affects children, adolescents, young adults,
and older adults. Noise not only affects hearing. It affects other
parts of the body and body systems . It is now known that noise:
Increases blood pressure
Has negative cardiovascular
effects such as changing the way the heart beats
Increases breathing rate
Can cause an upset stomach or
Can negatively impact a
developing fetus, perhaps contributing to premature birth
Makes it difficult to sleep,
even after the noise stops
Intensifies the effects of
factors like drugs, alcohol, aging and carbon monoxide .
Noise can also
hamper performance of daily tasks, increase fatigue, and cause
Noise can reduce
efficiency in performing daily tasks by reducing attention to tasks.
This is a concern of employers when it comes to assuring workers'
safety. It is also a concern to a growing number of educators interested
in human learning.
The key word in
dealing with noise is prevention! We want to eliminate unwanted
noise when we can. When noise cannot be eliminated, we want to keep it
as low as possible. Here are some things to do:
protectors when exposed
to any loud or potentially damaging noise at work, in the community
(heavy traffic, rock concerts, hunting, etc.) or at home (mowing the
lawn, snow blowing the driveway, etc.). Cotton in your ears won't work.
Limit periods of
exposure to noise .
Don't sit next to the speakers at concerts, discos, or auditoriums. If
you are at a rock concert, walk out for awhile give your ears a break !
If you are a musician, wear ear protection--it is a necessity! Take
personal responsibility for your hearing.
Pump down the
volume! When using
stereo headsets or listening to amplified music in a confined place like
a car, turn down the volume. Remember: if a friend can hear the music
from your headset when standing three feet away, the volume is
definitely too high. Don't be afraid to ask your child to turn down the
volume or they loose the head set for a day and try again tomorrow.
and take action! Educate your children through discussion and by
example. Wear your ear protection and encourage your children to follow
your example. Provide them with ear protection. Remind them to turn down
stereo headsets. A rule of thumb is that, if sound from a head set can
be heard by others 3 feet away, it is too loud.
child's toys for noise
danger just as you do for small parts that can cause choking. Remember,
too, that children tend to hold toys close to their ear which can pose
additional threat for hearing damage.
Be aware of the
noise in your environment and take control of it
when you can. Be an advocate for reducing noise pollution. Your county
may have a local noise ordinance. Find out what you can do in your
community to advocate for quiet. For example, some schools have set a
decibel limit for the music played at school dances in order to protect
the students' hearing.
Many people are
exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, including firefighters;
military personnel; disc jockeys; subway workers; construction workers;
musicians; farm workers; industrial arts teachers; highway workers;
computer operators; landscapers; factory workers; and cab, truck, and
bus operators, to name a few. Continued exposure to more than 85
decibels (dBA) of noise may cause gradual but permanent damage to
hearing. Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA ) regulations require that, when engineering controls and/or
administrative controls cannot reduce noise levels in industry to an
eight-hour time-weighted average (TWA) level of less than 85 dBA, a
hearing protection program must be established.
OSHA requires a
five phase hearing conservation program for industry:
levels must be measured. Results are used to decide: (a) which employees
need to be in the hearing conservation program, (b) whether hearing
protection devices must be used or be available on an optional basis,
(c) which hearing protection devices are appropriate for different noise
levels of the facility.
employees in a hearing conservation program must have baseline and
annual hearing tests.
Employees involved in a hearing conservation program must receive annual
education and training on (a) the effects of noise on hearing, (b)
hearing protection devices (their availability to employees, their
advantages and disadvantages, techniques for proper selection, fit, use,
and care) and, (c) the purpose and procedures of audiometric testing.
Hearing protection devices should be made available to all employees.
Mandatory versus optional use is determined by noise exposure
monitoring. Hearing protection devices must be worn by employees whose
eight hour TWA is 90 dBA or greater and by employees whose TWAs are
between 85-90 dBA if they display standard threshold shifts in hearing
results, equipment calibration results, and audiometric test records of
employees must be maintained for specific periods of time.
damaging noise does not come only form the workplace. If you use stereo
headsets, operate power tools for yard work, have a long daily commute
in heavy traffic, or use a number of household appliances, you still may
be exposed to potentially damaging noise.
activities such as hunting, target shooting, motorboating, waterskiing,
jetskiing, snowmobiling, motorcycle riding, woodworking, rock music, or
stereo headsets are sources of hazardous noise. So are some movie
theaters, home entertainment centers, car stereo systems, health clubs,
dance clubs, bars, and amusement centers.
Children's toys can
also be hazardous, e.g., toys with horns and sirens, toy vacuum cleaners
and vehicles, musical instruments, talking dolls, squeeze toys, and
battery-operated toys that emit sounds.
Dealing with noise
and its effects is a personal responsibility, a work-place
responsibility, and a community responsibility. The first and obvious
rule is avoid loud noise whenever possible. A good rule of thumb is to
remember that if you must shout to be heard, then you should be avoiding
the situation or using ear protection.