Noise, or unwanted sound, is one of the most pervasive occupational health problems. Overexposure to high noise levels can cause permanent hearing loss, which reduces the ability to understand speech and enjoy desirable sounds such as music and bird songs. Excessive noise exposure may also contribute to other health effects such as tinnitus (ringing in the ear), increased blood pressure, nervousness, sleeplessness and fatigue.
Noise sources capable of damaging hearing include wood and metal working power tools, chain saws, earthmoving equipment, mechanical equipment (boilers, chillers, and compressors), firearms and musical instruments. As a rule of thumb, if one must shout to be heard at a distance of 3 feet, the noise level likely exceeds 85 dBA, the average allowable noise level for an 8-hour workday. A ringing sensation in the ear after work is also a sign of overexposure to noise.
The University of Arizona's Hearing Conservation Program is designed to prevent noise induced hearing loss by preventing employee exposure to excessive workplace noise. This program is mandated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Occupational Noise Exposure standard (29 CFR 1910.95). Under the OSHA standard, the University must:
- Assess employee noise exposures. Where noise exposure levels exceed the Threshold Limit Value of 85 dBA as an 8-hour time-weighted average, the following actions are required:
- Eliminate or reduce the noise hazard to the extent possible through engineering controls and work practices;
- Provide hearing protectors when controls are not possible, are insufficient, or while such controls are being implemented;
- Provide audiometric testing initially and yearly;
- Train employees on preventing noise-induced hearing loss and proper use of hearing protectors;
- Develop a written Hearing Conservation Plan, maintain records and review the program annually.
I Have a Noise Problem Where Do I Start?
- Please contact Julia Rosen (621-1570, firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule an evaluation of the noise exposure levels. If noise exposures exceed allowable levels (85 dBA as an 8-hour time-weighted average), all affected employees must enroll in the UA Hearing Conservation Program. To enroll personnel in the hearing conservation program, the following information is required:
- Supervisor contact name, department, phone and email
- Names and job titles of personnel exposed
- Schedule employee training with Risk Management.
- Schedule initial hearing test (audiogram) with UA Speech and Hearing Clinic (621-7070). Approval for hearing tests is contingent upon completion of training.
- Schedule employee training and fit testing of hearing protectors with Risk Management.
- Implement recommendations to reduce noise exposures.
- Purchase hearing protectors and enforce consistent use.
- Anticipate need for annual refresher training and hearing tests.