All workplaces in Pennsylvania and throughout the world produce noise. In some cases, these levels are dangerous to the people in the office or on the work floor and can result in quick hearing loss or cumulative hearing loss over time. 

At what level of sound should a worker be concerned about the degradation of his or her hearing? 

Professional recommendations 

According to information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health established recommended exposure limits for occupational noise in 1988 at 85 decibels over the period of an eight-hour day in the course of a five-day workweek. 

Higher sound levels have the ability to degrade the hearing of workers. If the noise level exceeds 85 decibels, the amount of time a worker has exposure to this higher level should decrease. For example, at 91 decibels the safe exposure level for a worker would only be two hours a day. In totality, these recommendations expect to protect 92% of workers over a 40-year career. 

Current numbers 

The magazine of Environment Health and Safety provides some interesting numbers on workplace hearing loss. OSHA reports that approximately 22 million workers toil in places where potentially damaging noise is present. In 2017, the agency fined businesses $1.5 million for failure to protect workers from excessive noise. Workers’ compensation costs for hearing loss, according to OSHA estimates, can amount to $242 million a year. In 1981 OSHA adopted regulations that require employers to provide free hearing PPE, measure workplace noise levels and provide free annual hearing exams to workers.