As an employer working in an industry where your staff might be exposed to excessive noise, you ought to know the Government guidelines that oversee this safety aspect in the workplace. So what is the legislation? How do you measure it, and why are figures such as 80 dB, 85 dB, and 87 dB so crucial for noise studies? Continue reading for a detailed guide on what you should know about noise exposure., this read will be extremely beneficial for a acoustic expert.
Why is noise exposure dangerous?
To understand why too much noise is harmful, you must first learn how sound is measured. You also need to know what entails the process of hearing.
How do we measure sound?
Decibels (dB) is a relative unit measurement of sound, with 0 equivalent to total silence, 80 dB the sound level of a noisy restaurant or heavy traffic, 100 dB for a low-flying jet and 140 dB representing the threshold of pain. It’s worth noting that this is a logarithmic decibel scale. That means every increase of 3 dB is equivalent to doubling the sound level, while 10 dB is double the volume. A-weighted decibels, or dBA, is the expression used for the relative loudness of sounds as the human ear perceives them. The scale usually considers that we can’t hear relatively low audio frequencies, so it incorporates adjustments for this sensitivity. You may also come across C-weighted scales – these characterize peak sounds of more than 100 dB. dBA and dBC are the basic units to refer to when dealing with noise-induced hearing loss.
How do we hear?
The actual process of hearing is incredibly complex. Sound waves travel as vibrations from the outer ear to your middle ear. These vibrations are amplified in your middle ear before being passed on to your inner ear. This is where they cause the moving of tiny sensory cells within the cochlea, producing an electrical signal. The signal then travels to your auditory cortex to be decoded into sound. Suppose you expose your ears to excessive noise. In that case, this might damage the cochlea’s tiny hair cells and membranes, which may eventually die. Hearing loss is permanent when the auditory nerve and inner ear get compromised, so protecting the hearing of all workers in potentially noisy environments is vital.
The impact of noise on mental health and wellbeing
Tinnitus and hearing loss aren’t the only health complications associated with excessive noise exposure. Research has proven that too much noise is a primary cause of stress for workers. It may also lead to various medical ailments, such as cardiovascular disease, a compromised immune system, and hypertension. It can also adversely affect mental health. As such, this is a critical aspect of health and general safety in the workplace that every employer should consider.
What’s a harmful noise level?
You might be wondering when the noise level becomes harmful. To determine noise levels that could impair your hearing, you need to consider the length of exposure besides the dBA level. A short noise blast at 120 dBA could instantly cause hearing loss. In comparison, exposure to 85 dBA for a prolonged period of 8+ hours can cause permanent hearing disability.
Noise exposure legislation
There’s no denying the significance of having legislation guiding restrictions for occupational noise exposure. This protects the employer and the employee since there’s no uncertainty over what’s a harmful noise level and the most appropriate actions to take to protect the hearing of staff.
The latest directive
Based on European Union directives, the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005 primarily focuses on aligning all member states regarding safeguarding workers from the various health concerns of excessive noise exposure.