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Occupational Health branch

Occupational Health Watch: January 2022

Protecting Workers from Occupational Hearing Loss

Every year, over 22 million workers in the United States are exposed to harmful noise levels at work. Hazardous noise levels can lead to occupational hearing loss and impact a worker's quality of life. Occupational hearing loss is the most common U.S work-related illness and the third most common chronic physical condition after high blood pressure and arthritis.

Hazardous noise exposure occurs in every industry sector. Workers in certain industries like agriculture, construction, manufacturing, and mining are at a higher risk for occupational hearing loss.

National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) Noise Recommendations

  •  The NIOSH Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) is 85 decibels as an 8-hr time weighted average (TWA). Anything higher is hazardous.
  • NIOSH recommends using the Hierarchy of Controls to reduce noise hazards. Provide hearing protection to workers when hazardous noise levels cannot be reduced to an acceptable level
Noise Levels by Decibals Text: Pneumatic Precision Drill 119, Hammar Drill 114, Chain Saw 110


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