How Loud Does a Working Environment Have to Be to Require Ear Defenders?

Those who work in a noisy environment can often find that they are subject to more that the simple rigours of working life. People who find themselves subjected to loud working conditions can often fall victim to hearing conditions, in both the short and the long term. To combat this, many regulations exist designed to encourage the use of hearing protection in such conditions. But attempting to figure out the volume limits is tough, and it can be hard to tell when a workplace moves beyond simply loud into the realm of too loud.

Whilst we often subject ourselves to loud noises for pleasure, during sporting events and rock concerts, finding yourself in a loud working environment can be a little different. As you will likely be spending a large portion of your working life in the same conditions, the measures taken to prevent hearing damage should be strenuous. The most common solution for those who find themselves subject to such conditions is to wear ear defenders. Worn over the outer ear, these devices are available in a number of colours and designs. Should they be required in the work place, your employer should be able to equip you with the right protection.

While many companies are aware of the high volume of the environment and will require you to wear protection, it might simply be a recommended practice in others. To determine whether the protection is necessary, ask yourself several questions:

Does the noise seem intrusive?

Do you need to raise your voice to talk to another person?

Are you part of an industry which is known for loud working conditions, such as construction or manufacturing?

If the answer to the above questions is yes, then it is likely that further steps may need to be taken. From a quantifiable standpoint, the volume levels are often measured and provisions are taken according to decibel measurements. At 80dB, employers are required to provide training and instruction on how to reduce risk, and need to make protective measures available. Those workplaces which are frequently subject to 85dB are expected to take measures to reduce exposure to loud noises and if the measures are unable to have an effect, then hearing protection is required. Any environment above 87dB is considered something to which an employee should not be exposed, taking into account protective measures.

If you find yourself at risk of hearing damage or are beginning to experience difficulty, it is recommended that you talk to your employer in order to reduce the exposure to loud working conditions.