According to the dictionary, noise means loud and disruptive sound. The sound can stem from machines, but it can also come from music, or from people talking. We are all exposed to noise every day.
Your ear can stand a maximum of 85 decibel as an average noise level over a day, before it is damaged by the noise. Anything above 85 decibels can damage your hearing. Normal conversation is typically situated in the 60-70 decibel range. Decibel is also known as dB or dB(A).
What is dB(A)?
dB(A) is the measurement unit for sound, which is called decibel. The (A) means that there is applied an A-weighted filter, meaning that it approximates the sound, that a human can hear. Thus, the measurement unit, that approximates the human hearing, is called dB(A).
If you are exposed to high noise levels during the day, the amount of time you spend in noisy environments needs to be shortened.
Noise at work
There are legal restrictions that regulate the allowed noise level exposure in work settings. The maximum noise level is 85 dB(A). All companies in the European Union must comply with the maximum noise level exposure of 85 dB(A). Un-necessary noise should be reduced, so that the ear is not exposed to unhealthy levels of noise. If you are exposed to noise levels above 80 dB(A) at work, you should wear hearing protection, which your employer must make available for you. Furthermore, your employer should inform you of the risks involved with noise exposure. Learn more about the European legislation here.
This is how long you can stay in a noisy environment (with hearing protection on)
- 8 hours in 85 dB
- 4 hours in 88 dB
- 2 hours in 91 dB
- 1 hour in 94 dB
- 30 minutes in 97 dB
- 15 minutes in 100 dB
If you are exposed to such high levels of noise as stated above, you should not be exposed to any noise the rest of your workday. For instance, if you are exposed to 88 dB for 4 hours, the rest of your workday should be spent without any noise exposure.
Source: Arbejdsmiljøforskning.dk (in Danish)
See the noise barometer to get an idea of the noise levels, your ears are exposed to in different situations.