Recommended level of Noise Exposure in Workplace or for General Public

Sound and noise exposure is unavoidable in our everyday lives. Sound gives us pleasant experiences such as music and laughter, after all. A ticking watch, whispers, the hum of an air conditioner are also common sounds that we hear. A normal conversation at 60 decibels (dB) is within the limits of safe human hearing. Sound levels in these situations are normal and do not pose any harm. But we need to filter harmful sounds. Loud noises above 120 dB cause immediate harm to your hearing. These are the sound of firecrackers and being near sirens.

The higher the decibel, the shorter time it may cause hearing damage. However, nearly 70% of people are exposed to loud noise every day, most often for long periods. Seldom wear hearing protection like ear muffs or earplugs. Without proper protection, people are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss.

Risks of Prolonged Noise

Prolonged noise exposure is often overlooked by most people when it comes to taking care of hearing. That’s why it is increasingly becoming the source of hearing damage. For instance, occupations exposed to loud noises have specific measures and care for their team’s hearing and overall wellbeing. For activities with lesser noise than these, people experience noise at a tolerable level. We think this noise is still at the normal range and do nothing to protect our hearing. However, continual exposure actually causes the same risks.

Being exposed to higher than 85 dB noise for over 8 hours can lead to hearing loss. An example of this is city traffic, and you may feel annoyed at prolonged exposure in this environment. Gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers are around 80-85 dB and can cause damage after only 2 hours of exposure. While a running motorcycle at 95 dB is only 50 minutes. Personal listening devices and loud entertainment range from 105 – 110 dB and take only 5 minutes for possible hearing loss.

For proper hearing protection, some doable practices include measuring sound levels and having appropriate ear protection gear. A sound level meter determines the sound level in a room or event. They are available as smartphone apps nowadays. More importantly, after you determine if your hearing is at risk or not, you should have the proper gear. Earplugs and earmuffs cover the ears and are ideal for both regular and intermittent use.

Noise Exposure in the Workplace

Several studies prove the negative effects of prolonged noise. Usually, these happen in the workplace where we spend at least 8 hours of our day. That’s why the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) established recommended exposure limits (REL) to protect us from hearing-related conditions. The REL for prolonged noise or occupational noise averaged 85 decibels for an 8-hour exposure (85 dBA). Moreover, the NIOSH expressed this maximum allowable doses in percentages. For instance, an eight-hour work shift exposed to 85 dBA noise reaches 100% of the allowable dose.

As the noise level increases by 3 dB, the allowable dose is reduced in half. For example, in a work environment with 88 dBA (85 dB + 3 dB), workers must only be exposed for four hours. For 91 dBA, it’s two hours, until 100 dBA for 15 minutes.

Noise Recommendations for the General Public

The recommended average is 70dbA over 24 hours or a 75dbA over 8 hours for general environmental noise. This classification includes noise found everywhere like schools, music events, restaurants, etc. In more specific situations, two more recommendations exist. The environmental setting or size of a room can affect general activities’ noise levels. Thus, it averages 45 dbA for indoor activities and 55 dbA for outdoor activities.

Author’s BioAgnes John is a copywriter and content strategist. She helps businesses stop playing around with content marketing and start seeing the tangible ROI. She loves writing as much as she loves the cake.

* Our Banking Partners FULLERTON, AXIS Bank, ICICI, HDFC plus YES Bank.