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Noise Hazards

Exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss. Short term exposure to loud noise can also cause a temporary change in hearing (your ears may feel stuffed up) or a ringing in your ears (tinnitus). These short-term problems may go away within a few minutes or hours after leaving the noise. However, repeated exposures to loud noise can lead to permanent tinnitus and/or hearing loss.

Loud noise can create physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, interfere with communication and concentration, and contribute to workplace accidents and injuries by making it difficult to hear warning signals. The effects of noise induced hearing loss can be profound, limiting your ability to hear high frequency sounds, understand speech, and seriously impairing your ability to communicate.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. These limits are based on a worker's time weighted average over an eight hour workday. With noise, OSHA's permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an eight hour workday.

You can contact Environmental Health & Safety to request a noise assessment.

Reduce Noise Exposure

There are several ways to control and reduce worker exposure to noise where exposure has been shown to be excessive:

Engineering Controls

Engineering controls involve modifying or replacing equipment, or making related physical changes at the noise source or along the transmission path to reduce the noise level at a worker's ear. Examples include:

  • Choose low noise tools and machinery.
  • Maintain and lubricate machinery and equipment.
  • Place a barrier between the noise source and employee.
  • Enclose or isolate the noise source.

Administrative Controls

Administrative controls are changes in the workplace or schedule that reduce or eliminate a worker's exposure to noise. Examples include:

  • Operating noisy machines during shifts when fewer people are exposed.
  • Limiting the amount of time a person spends at a noise source.
  • Providing quiet areas where workers can gain relief from hazardous noise sources.
  • Controlling noise exposure through distance. For every doubling of the distance between the source of noise and the worker, the noise is decreased by 6 dBA.

Noise Resources

OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure

NIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention