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Noise at Work

Millions of people are exposed to loud noise levels at work. These include the following occupations:

  • Firefighters and other first responders
  • Military personnel
  • Disc jockeys
  • Subway workers
  • Construction workers
  • Musicians
  • Factory workers
  • Mine workers

Continued exposure to more than 85 decibels (dBA) of noise may cause gradual but permanent damage to hearing. Noise can also hamper job performance, increase fatigue, and cause irritability.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency that regulates safety in the workplace. OSHA has established regulations around hearing protection and conservation. OSHA requires a five-phase hearing conservation program for industry:

  1. Noise Monitoring: Sound levels must be measured to determine what safeguards are needed.
  2. Audiometric (Hearing) Testing: All employees in a hearing conservation program must be tested annually.
  3. Employee Training and Education: Employees in a hearing conservation program must be trained every year on hearing protection.
  4. Hearing Protectors: Hearing protection devices should be made available to all employees according to the noise risks identified.
  5. Record Keeping: The company must maintain records on sound level results, equipment calibration results, and hearing test records of employees, as well as its educational activities.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention webpage provides additional information on this topic. NIOSH is a federal research agency that makes recommendations and provides additional resources for preventing occupational hearing loss.

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