While I’m waiting for the light to change and listening to the very loud bass vibrating my car from the next vehicle, I chuckle as I think, wow in 20 years we’re going to have a massive hearing loss epidemic among males and headlines asking why the government didn’t do anything to stop it. You laugh as I but hearing loss is a bigger problem in the work place than you may think. Sounds over 90 decibels can cause damage to the inner ear when encountered over a long period of time and to compare, a normal conversation at 3 feet apart from one another is 60-65 decibels. So if your working 8 hours in an environment where the noise level is 90dB and over, (some experts say 80dB and over) you NEED to wear some level of hearing protection PPE, (Personal Protective Equipment).
For those of you already working in noisy environments this is nothing new and your company should be issuing hearing protection and you MUST be USING them diligently. You also upon your hire should have had a baseline test completed. This helps monitor and determine if there is any drop in hearing over the years of employment. Good companies follow up with a hearing test on your employment anniversary date to track if any issues.
Do you need hearing protection at your place of work? A general rule of thumb is that if you need to shout to be heard, the sound is in the range that can damage hearing. With forklifts generating 77-93dB and diesel trucks clocking 97-112dB a dock could get noisy. Speak with your supervisor or manager and ask that a sound test be completed. Then depending on the decibel levels measured you can work with HR on selection of the proper ear protection.
Ear Plugs Ear Muffs
OSHA also has posted, limits of exposure time for noise. For 90dB it’s 8 hours a day down to 15 minutes a day at 115 dB. It’s interesting to note that OSHA limits exposure of 100 decibels to 2 hours. 100 dB is generated easily at some rock concerts, so a 3-4 hour show can actually be damaging to your hearing.
Take safety seriously, protect your hearing, it’s something that happens gradually over the years and will not return after you’ve lost. Open up those lines of communication with your company and make safety everybody’s problem.