Employees who are exposed to hazardous levels of noise in the workplace are at risk for developing noise‐induced hearing loss. Noise‐induced hearing loss is 100 percent preventable but once acquired, hearing loss is irreversible. Fortunately, the incidence of noise‐induced hearing loss can be reduced or eliminated through the successful application of workplace controls and hearing conservation programs, as described in the University’s written Hearing Conservation Program. Hazardous Noise
- Permanent hearing loss (nerve damage) can occur when the ear is exposed to 85 decibels (dB) or higher averaged over an 8 hour work day.
- If workers standing only a few feet apart have to shout or raise their voices to be heard, it is an indication that noise levels are above 85 dB.
- Symptoms of noise induced hearing loss can include ringing in the ears (tinnitus) and difficulty understanding conversation (sound distortion).
- Hearing loss is usually painless and the symptoms can be hard to identify and may go unnoticed.
- Noise that causes pain in the ear is an indication that the noise level is too high.
- Any exposure to the ear at 140dB or higher can cause immediate and permanent hearing loss.
PPE ‐ earplugs, earmuffs, and canal caps Hearing Protective Devices
- Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) – the decibel reduction a wearer can expect from a properly fitted hearing protective device.
- Earplugs ‐have the highest NRR (up to 33 dB) and are inexpensive. Plugs must be inserted properly!
- Earmuffs – form air‐tight seal over the ear, NRR up to 30 dB, less effective when using eyewear.
- Canal Caps – lower NRR, use pressure from a headband to hold the earplugs in place.