Noise Exposure - Hearing Conservation

What is occupational noise exposure?

Noise, or unwanted sound, is one of the most pervasive occupational health problems. It is a by-product of many industrial processes. Sound consists of pressure changes in a medium (usually air), caused by vibration or turbulence. These pressure changes produce waves emanating away from the turbulent or vibrating source.
Exposure to high levels of noise causes hearing loss and may cause other harmful health effects as well. The extent of damage depends primarily on the intensity of the noise and the duration of the exposure. Generally, employees exposed to sound levels at or above 85 decibels are at risk and should be provided with hearing protection that is adequate for the level and duration of exposure.

How does occupational noise exposure effect the human body?

1. Hearing impairment from mechanical blockage or inner ear hair cell damage
2. Tinnitus; a ringing, hissing or booming sensation in the ear
3. Temporary noise-induced hearing loss from noise levels above 85 decibels
4. Permanent noise-induced hearing loss from noise levels above 85 decibels for extended periods of time
5. Mental and physical stress from tinnitus or other noise exposure symptoms
6. Increased risk of incident by distraction from noise exposure symptoms

What controls may be used to protect yourself from occupational noise exposure?

1. Request hearing protection from your supervisor if you suspect that you are being exposed to sound levels at or above 85 decibels
2. If hearing protection is not provided to you in what you believe is a noisy environment, request hearing protection again or request audiometric testing of your work area to confirm sound levels are below OSHA’s 8-hour time weighted average of 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA)
3. Ensure hearing protectors, muffs or other PPE are serviceable by performing a visual inspection before and after each use
4. Report all defective hearing protection devices to your supervisor
5. Always mark, tag or destroy defective hearing protection before you discard to prevent use by other workers who may find them after disposal
6. If you believe you have been exposed to harmful levels of noise, report to your supervisor immediately
7. If you observe other employees working around harmful levels of noise without hearing protection, inform them about hearing protection requirements and / or report them to your supervisor

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