Prevention of noise exposure and the use of personal protective equipment: Vital for protecting Industry personnel from the workplace hazard

Prevention of noise exposure and the use of personal protective equipment: Vital for protecting Industry personnel from the workplace hazard:

Out of all the physical ailments found in industry personnel, hearing issues are the most common - so noise protection is a must. Hearing loss affects not just the professional life of a person, but home and social life too.

Even a low level of noise can be hazardous to the human ear and noise exposure can have serious health consequences, ranging from hearing loss and tinnitus to hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance and sleep disturbance. Hearing loss can start at a relatively low noise level of 85 decibels. This is because noise is cumulative, so that even low-level noise can add up to a dangerous total. The pain threshold starts at around 120 decibels. If the noise level is very high, it can damage a person’s hearing within a very short time. OSHA’s maximum permissible (as opposed to day-long average) exposure limit is 90 dBA for all workers for an eight-hour day. In addition, the OSHA standard employs a 5-dBA exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by 5 dBA, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.

Younger workers just entering the workforce tend to underestimate the hazards caused by noise. “This puts them especially at risk,” says Rosario, as they usually only react quickly if they experience acute hearing loss, caused by excessive noise. It often takes 10 to 20 years before people become aware of any long-term damage. At least 22 million workers are exposed to potentially damaging noise at work each year, OSHA reports.

Yet a person’s hearing is not the only thing that is affected by noise. Noise can cause stress to the entire body, causing poor concentration, gastrointestinal disorders and high blood pressure. It can even increase the risk of a heart attack. Joao Rosario, an application engineer in the Personal Safety Division of the multi-technology group 3M, said he believes that this is important because “Although medicine has made amazing progress in the treatment of hearing damage in recent years, it’s impossible to eliminate all hearing problems.”

Loss of hearing is the most costly for employees. Workers who suffer from hearing loss likely experience feelings of isolation, as simple communication becomes more difficult, leading to frustration. From missing important information in meetings and calls to more serious health impacts, hearing loss significantly can affect an individual's quality of life. It is important to monitor hearing health in the workforce, as it can increase the risk of isolation and depression which – in people who do not hear well – is twice as high as those who have no hearing difficulties at all. Hearing loss not only impacts the quality of life of your workers, it impacts profits and productivity for your company as well.

By following a these smart noise protection tips from hearing specialists, you can help prevent hearing loss and be happier and healthier in all areas of your life.

1. Take everyday noise protection care – Wearing high-quality industrial earplugs or ear muffs helps protect your ears and your hearing.

2. Avoid loud environments – You don't have to be musician or jackhammer operator to experience hearing loss on the job. While concerts and construction zones are two environments that regularly cause hearing damage, it can happen in any loud work environment around machinery, large vehicles, etc. Many unions require construction workers to have their hearing tested multiple times each year. While you may or may not need to do this, protecting your ears and avoiding intense volumes will help in noise protection.

3. Wear noise-cancelling headphones – Many workers put on iPods and other music devices to drown out the sound of background noise. Instead of cranking up your favourite tunes to dangerous levels, wear noise-cancelling earplugs. This reduces the overall noise pollution without exposing your ears to additional strain.

4. Quit smoking and keep your blood sugar in check – Smoking doesn't just damage your breathing, lungs and heart. It literally suffocates cells throughout your body, including those inside your ear canal. If you smoke, get your blood sugar levels checked regularly by your doctor to address any imbalances as it can be very damaging for your ears. Do take an expert’s advice by visiting a hearing clinic near you.

5. Never stick anything inside your ear canal – It’s important to choose a safe noise protection device that doesn’t go too far into your ear canal. Similarly, you don’t want to be sticking anything in your ears to remove earwax, such as cotton swabs and other stick-like devices. Not only can these sticks and other similar tools damage your hearing by puncturing your ear drum, they also can inadvertently create an uncomfortable build-up by pushing wax and debris further inside your ear canal. If you suspect any hearing damage consult a professional ear specialist and have you ears checked and tested.

6. Use noise protection like ear plugs when needed – If you have hearing loss – or are at risk of it – you should be using noise protection devices like ear plugs at work, on the street and in any other noisy places. Earplugs and other devices can reduce and even eliminate noise exposure. Preventative action to reduce noise exposure continues to be vital to the prevention of hearing loss, and so does the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).


(1) 6 Noise Protection Tips for Workers – by Tanya Wilson

(2) A+A 2017 Focus on Hearing Protection: From Apps to Earplugs – by Kirsten Rein

(3) OSHA Limits on Workplace Noise Feed Complaints – by David Sparkman

(4) The Importance of Hearing Health at Work – by Barry Downes

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About The Author

Kamal DhandhaSr. Inspection Engineer
TUV India Pvt Ltd