Exposure to noise and loud sounds can cause hearing loss. So how loud is too loud? The noise level and the duration of exposure will dictate the amount of hearing loss. Loudness is measured in units called decibels. The consensus on noise in the workplace is no louder than 85 dB. A person can be exposed to 85 dB or less of noise for an 8-hour workday. This is considered acceptable from a regulation standpoint. Sound levels above 85 dB will have an increasingly detrimental effect on hearing. Specifically, for every 3 dB increase in the sound level, the length of acceptable exposure will be diminished by half. For example: for 88 dB, the exposure time will decrease from 8 hours to 4; 91 dB will be 2 hours, and so on. When sound is over 100 dB, the safe exposure time will only be minutes. To put it in perspective, average conversation levels are around 65 dB, whispering is 30 dB, a dishwasher is 70 dB, and an ambulance siren or a jet engine is 120 dB.
People often think large factories with equipment and machines running are noisy work environments. While these settings do have high decibel levels, many other types of environments also surpass the safe threshold of 85 dB. Automotive garages, manufacturing facilities, heavy equipment operators and truck drivers, pilots, police officers, landscapers, and more are common sources of noise in the workplace. When someone is exposed regularly to high noise levels at work, there is a strong possibility of noise-induced hearing loss. If someone experiences hearing loss due to their work environment, they may be eligible to make a claim with a compensation board. In Ontario, we have the Workplace Safety Insurance Board (WSIB). Noise-induced hearing loss can also happen to those in military service. Firearms, explosives, etc., reach dangerous levels and may cause permanent hearing loss.
If there is a decline in hearing and there is or has been exposure to workplace noise, there may be noise-induced hearing loss. It is essential to see an Audiologist to be properly assessed. Once the assessment is complete and the results have been studied, there may be options for applying to either WSIB or Veterans Affairs Canada for noise-induced hearing loss coverage. The applications are straightforward. The clinic can provide you with the paperwork and assist in completing the application. Even if the person has retired, they can still apply. Make an appointment with an Audiologist to discuss your work-related hearing loss concerns.