September 2014 - What did you say?

Have you, or do you know someone, who has problems participating in a conversation when there is a lot of background noise?  Do you have ringing in your ears? Those could be signs of damage to your hearing.  Are you exposed to loud noises at your place of employment?  Do you have hobbies that are loud? Fire arms? Live Concerts? Sporting events? MP3 players?  Each one of those items listed could be damaging to your hearing.  How does noise induced hearing damage occur?  Noise levels are measured as sound pressure in decibels.  Depending on the noise level and the amount of time you are exposed to the noise, plays a big part in the probability of hearing damage.  The noise damages hair cells that are located inside the cochlea, the inner ear.  Once the hair cells are destroyed, you can’t repair them.

OSHA has designated 85 decibels as the action level for businesses.  When employees are exposed to an 8 hour time weighted average of 85 decibels or higher, businesses are required to have a hearing conservation program.  When noise levels reach 90 decibels or greater for 8 hours, hearing protection is mandatory.  As the sound gets louder, your allowed time of exposure decreases.   When the sound increases by 5 decibels, the exposure time allowed is cut in half.  At 90 decibels, it is 8 hours.  At 100 decibels, it is only 2 hours.  An average live concert may have sound levels of 105 decibels.  An MP3 player at maximum volume may reach 105 decibels, limiting your allowed exposure time to 1 hour.  The engine of a jet airplane 300 feet away may have a noise level exceeding 120 decibels; exposure time would be limited to only 8 minutes.  And finally the fans of two NFL football teams have been competing for the noise volume record, which currently stands at 137.5 decibels.  What is your potential exposure when an average NFL game lasts approximately 3 hours.  Ouch.

There are other reasons for hearing loss, including medical and genetic.  Noise induced hearing loss is preventable.  If it is due to occupational hazards, an employer can use different means to dampen or containing the noise.  An employer can cycle out employees to limit the time of exposure.  Ear plugs and ear muffs can be worn to attenuate the noise to a more manageable level.  Remember to control/mitigate hazards in the following order: engineering, administrative, personal protective equipment.

What we do for entertainment can also affect our hearing.  Do you really need to listen to your music through earbuds at the maximum level?  Would you be embarrassed to put in earplugs at a live music or sporting event?  Remember, you only have two ears.  Losing a SENSE to something preventable seems like NONSENSE.  Be Safe!

The Safety Consultation and Training Section (SCATS) helps Nevada employers and employees create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.  We provide sound monitoring services at no additional cost to Nevada Employers.  SCATS is part of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry, Division of Industrial Relations. 

For additional information about SCATS services including consultation and training programs, contact your nearest SCATS office or visit our website at www.4safenv.state.nv.us.