Keeping the sound in industrial and manufacturing settings can be challenging. While it may not seem like too big of a problem if you have your employees wear earplugs or other hearing protection, too high of levels can cause permanent hearing problems and even deafness. It’s such a big deal that OSHA actually requires that certain levels of noise be maintained in order to pass inspections. In order to maintain these sound levels, many companies choose to invest in sound absorbing materials to keep their employees safe. This material is available in many different forms including ceiling tiles, barriers, wall panels, enclosures, and more depending on the needs of the company and space.
Health Effects of Noise Exposure
The type of hearing loss caused by exposure to high levels of noise cannot be corrected with hearing aids or even surgery in most cases. If the exposure to high noise levels is short-term, the effects are usually temporary. While this short-term exposure may only cause a few minutes or hours of tinnitus or stuffy feeling ears, if the exposure is repeated it may cause permanent problems in hearing.
The unit used to measure the pressure that different levels of sound cause are called decibels. While one level may seem relatively safe, just a small change can make it dangerous to be exposed to. When exposed to high levels of sound, nerve endings involved in hearing can die which is what leads to hearing problems.
How to Control Noise Levels
One of the easiest ways to prevent hearing loss is using protective gear for each employee. To make things even safer, providing sound barriers between the loud equipment and those at risk for hearing loss is another option. Sound walls and curtains can be implemented in many cases that make it possible to isolate the cause of the noise from the rest of the work floor.
When providing noise isolation isn’t enough, it’s sometimes possible to modify the equipment itself to minimize the noise. Proper maintenance of the machinery is extremely important as well. By ensuring that the machines are kept properly lubricated and running as they are supposed to you can generally decrease the levels of sound that they produce as well as keeping them running longer without breakdowns. If the machines being used are at the point where they need to be replaced, your company can consider purchasing equipment that produces lower noise levels than the models that were previously in use.
Unfortunately, even with all of these measures in place, there is just no way to bring the levels of some equipment to a safe level for long-term exposure. In these circumstances, there are actions that can be taken on an administrative level to prevent safety issues. If possible, try to operate this equipment during shifts where there are fewer workers on the floor being exposed to the noise and limit how long they have to be around it. Providing an area that is protected from noise for employees to seek relief is a great resource to maintain their safety.