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loud noises can cause little harm, but prolonged exposure can result in permanent hearing loss.  When you are on the job site it is important that you take special care of your hearing.  Once your hearing is damaged there is no surgery that can properly correct your hearing and there is no guarantee that hearing aids will restore your hearing.

In addition, excessive loud noise on the job site can also contribute to fatigue, preventing workers from hearing warning signals and reducing the ability of communication.  Exposure to noise can lead to serious accidents occurring on the jobsite possibly resulting in loss of life.  Away from the workplace hearing loss can also reduce one’s quality of life, disallowing one to enjoy the activities they once did.

While extremely loud noise can cause immediate hearing loss, most of the time, hearing loss is gradual, being lost over time, or through prolonged exposure to loud noises.  Continued, prolonged exposure to loud noises, even at a moderate level, creates the potential for hearing loss.

How Loud is Too Loud?

OSHA recommends that job site noise levels remain below 85dB for an 8-hour shift. Anything above or at 85dB, hearing loss can begin to occur. If noise levels meet 105dB workers can only work in that environment for 1 hour.  Any exposure to noises 85dB or greater for any amount of time, can begin to cause hearing damage. It is vital that you pay close attention to the amount of time you expose yourself to loud noises.  Without taking sound level readings it is helpful to know what noise levels are generated by everyday occurrences.  See the chart below:

Decibel (Loudness) Comparison Chart

Here are some interesting numbers, collected from a variety of sources, which help one to understand the volume levels of various sources and how they can affect our hearing.

Environmental Noise
Whisper Quiet Library at 6′ 30dB
Normal conversation at 3′ 60-65dB
Telephone dial tone 80dB
City Traffic (inside car) 85dB
Train whistle at 500′, Truck Traffic 90dB
Jackhammer at 50′ 95dB
Subway train at 200′ 95dB
Level at which sustained exposure may result in hearing loss 90 – 95dB
Hand Drill 98dB
Snowmobile, Motorcycle 100dB
Power mower at 3′ 107dB
Power saw at 3′ 110dB
Sandblasting, Loud Rock Concert 115dB
Pain begins 125dB
Pneumatic riveter at 4′ 125dB
Even short term exposure can cause permanent damage – Loudest recommended exposure with hearing protection 140dB
Jet engine at 100′ 140dB
12 Gauge Shotgun Blast 165dB
Death of hearing tissue 180dB

How Can I Make Sure My Hearing Remains Safe?

One of the most effective ways to reduce damage to one’s hearing is to plan. If you are aware you are going to be exposed to loud noises, there are steps you and your employer should and can take to help prevent hearing loss such as:

  • make or use prefabricated noise barriers
  • purchase or rent quieter equipment and tools
  • limit the total time spent in loud areas
  • place signs and warnings for others to keep awareness about hearing loss
  • regularly use hearing protection to help prevent hearing loss

There are three ways that can be used to prevent exposure to noise to reduce the potential for hearing loss:

                Engineering Controls:

  • Block It: Build a barrier around the loud object to help reduce the volume.
  • Reduce It: Lower noise volume by using quieter equipment
  • Move It: Move loud equipment further away from the job site. Noise levels decrease the further an object is away from an individual. If you are incapable of moving the loud object further away, limit your time near the object, moving yourself away from the object.

Administrative Controls:

  • Working in Shifts: As you will see from the chart below a worker’s time is limited to a set number of hours or minutes depending on the decibel readings of the noise levels.
OSHA Daily Permissible Noise Level Exposure
Hours per day Sound level
8 90dB
6 92dB
4 95dB
3 97dB
2 100dB
1.5 102dB
1 105dB
.5 110dB
.25 or less 115dB

Example – If a work process is producing a decibel level of 100dB and the process is going on for an entire day (8 hours) your company would need to have 4 workers perform the task for only 2 hours.  They would be replaced by the next worker and so on.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):

PPE is the LAST line of defense against noise exposure.  If neither of the first two controls are possible you can then provide PPE.  In construction it is nearly impossible to implement either of the first two controls, so PPE is always readily available for the workers.  You must provide three options for your workers to choose from (i.e. ear plugs, channel plugs or earmuffs)

Do not hesitate to bring your concerns about potential hearing loss to your employer.  You have the right to a safe working environment and your employer has the responsibility to provide that safe environment for every worker.  If you are an employer worried about the safety of your workers and the condition of your job site, do not hesitate to call Foy Safety Consulting.  Regardless if you are a worker or an employer, if you are worried about the safety of your workplace, call Foy Safety Consulting, where your safety comes first.