Exposure to Loud Noise During a Work Shift Can Harm Your Hearing

Exposure to Loud Noise During a Work Shift Can Harm Your Hearing

When you are at work, your employer is responsible for ensuring your safety. While you contribute to the collective project of the business, you need to know that you are not sacrificing your health or wellbeing in the process. Of course, some jobs are very risky, demanding workers to perform tasks that might lead to injury or harm. These jobs tend to have the strictest regulations about proper safety protocols, minimizing the risk as much as possible. 

In the United States, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the government agency tasked with ensuring workplace protections such as these. This group establishes guidelines and regulations for workplace safety, and they are also responsible for enforcing these regulations. Many large businesses, industrial sites, and factories have employees whose role in the corporation is to make sure that OSHA regulations are being followed. These safety specialists know what rules need to be followed and keep track of employee adherence to these laws. 

Many of the workplace risks that come to mind might have to do with the risk of falling from a high station, accidents involving vehicles, and injuries involving heavy equipment and machinery. In addition to these risks, the workplace can also pose a risk to your hearing. When entering a job site, some workplaces are immediately evident as dangerously loud places of business. You might feel the need to cup your ears if you were to walk into some factories or industrial facilities without hearing protection. However, these obviously loud places are not alone in posing a risk to your hearing at work. When you endure relatively quieter sounds for an extended period of time, such as a full working shift of 8 hours, you can also incur hearing damage. Let’s take a moment to consider how exposure to loud noise during a work shift can harm your hearing. 

Volume and Duration

The key to understanding the risk of hearing damage due to noise exposure is to see the balance of volume and duration of exposure. If you heard a loud blast, such as an explosion or a car accident, that sound might be enough to damage your hearing in an instant. The high volume of sound would create enough pressure to damage the tiny hairlike organelles of the inner ear called stereocilia. However, loud blasts of sound are not the only risks to your hearing. As a general guideline, you can endure 85 decibels of sound for 8 hours without incurring hearing damage. As sound gets 3 decibels louder, that time of exposure before you cross the threshold of safety shrinks by half. For example. If you heard sound at 88 decibels for more than 4 hours, you would have a risk of hearing damage, and only 2 hours of sound at 91 decibels would be sufficient to harm your hearing. With this principle in mind, it is easy to calculate your risk of hearing damage at work. All you need to do is take an accurate measure of the volume of sound you experience at work and then compare that with the duration of time you spend in that location. 

Calculating Your Workplace Risk

As we know, OSHA mandates that employers protect their employees from hearing damage at work. However, you are wise to make sure that the right protocols are in place, taking responsibility for your own hearing. You can download an app on your smartphone that measures the decibel level of your workplace. Be sure to take a few measurements capturing the range of workstations you inhabit during a given task. With this average number in hand, you can calculate how long you can stay in that location. If you tend to work in different workstations, take a reading of these various places to determine how long you can stay in any one task. If you are assigned to a full working shift in a location that is too loud, it’s time to talk to your supervisor about delegating different tasks in the work day or wearing hearing protection that will lower the effective level of sound you are experiencing. With these protections in mind, you can find a balance of noise and time that maintains healthy hearing in the future.