by Dr. Isabel Perry,
“The Safety Doctor”
NOISE is everywhere – at home, at work and everywhere in
between! There is some level of noise
wherever we are. Because it is so
pervasive, we tend to tune it out, unless it is very loud or particularly
annoying. Perhaps the fact that we do
tune it out is the most dangerous thing about noise. As a result, noise, or
undesirable sound is the most widespread of occupational health problems facing
the work environment today.
We’ve all found that after leaving a noisy location, our
ears were ringing and we couldn’t hear as well for a few minutes – or maybe
longer. Whether the noise level is loud
or soft, it can affect our hearing.
Hearing loss may be temporary or permanent. Temporary loss is usually due to short-term
exposure and diminishes after a period of time.
Permanent loss is usually a result of long-term exposure and some level
of normal hearing will be lost for an indefinite period.
On the work site, exposure to noise level above 85 dBA
(decibels) can result in “noise-reduced hearing loss.” Companies must provide any worker who is
going to be exposed to noise above permissible levels with hearing
protection. A selection of different
types of hearing protectors should be provided for employees, so that they can
choose comfortable ones that will sufficiently reduce the level of noise. Training should also be provided in the use
and care of hearing protectors.
The beginning of a good hearing protection program is the
identification of noise in the workplace.
Once this has been done, it is possible to look at means of reducing the
noise level or protecting workers from potential hearing loss.
OSHA requires that the first level of protection must be
“engineering controls” reduction. The
company must look at ways to reduce the noise level. The second step is hearing protection. Sometimes both are needed. Whenever the working conditions change, the
protection in use must be re-evaluated.
Audiometric tests and a record of their results must be kept
for the entire employment of a worker.
All workers should be aware of the importance of noise control and
hearing protection. Making everyone
conscious of the potential dangers can help reduce the likelihood of hearing
loss and make it easier to identify and correct noise problems in the
Dr. Isabel Perry is
an internationally-known safety expert, motivational speaker, author, and
safety educator. Based in Orlando, Florida, she can be reached at 407-291-1209 or via e-mail at