How much noise is too much noise?

We are exposed to noise every day, some of which has the potential to damage our hearing. Hearing loss develops gradually and painlessly which is why we tend not to notice it until it is too late.

It is essential to protect our ears from harmful levels of noise, but how do we know what is a “harmful level”? The maximum periods of time a person should be exposed to harmful noise per day without hearing protection can be surprising.

Volume control
85 dB City
                                                                                                                                8 hours
88 dB Bulldozer                                                                 4 hours                                                          
91 dB Jazz
                                2 hours                                                                                          
94 dB Lawn
                1 hour                                                                                                            
97 dB Nightclub         30 mins                                                                                                                    
100 dB Ambulance
    15 mins                                                                                                                        
103 dB Rock
  7.5 mins                                                                                                                          

No one wants to enjoy their favourite music festival for just 7.5 minutes! Make sure you are safe to enjoy the whole event by wearing correctly fitted earplugs from uvex.

What level of noise protection is required?

Each hearing protector is tested to determine its individual level of noise reduction when fitted correctly. Each protector has an SNR which is an abbreviation for Single Number Rating. The higher the SNR value of a hearing protection product, the higher the noise insulation provided.

To find out the protection figure required, the noise levels of the workplace must first be established. This is the calculated figure for the amount of potential protection the protector can provide when fitted correctly. For this, the noise levels need to be measured to determine the daily exposure levels, as well as any maximum or peak noises that might have an impact. A noise map is then established and then the required protection can be determined using the SNR method.

Noise Level - Noise Reduction (SNR) = Residual Noise Level

The objective when choosing suitable hearing protection is to achieve an effective residual noise level of between 70 dB and 75 dB for the wearer. If the protection provided is too high (over-protection) this can result in an inability to communicate and potentially not hearing any warning alarms.

Noise-induced hearing loss

Prolonged exposure to excessive levels of noise (such as industrial machinery, heavy traffic or even loud music) can cause noise-induced hearing loss. One-time exposure to extremely loud sounds such as explosions or gunshots can cause immediate and irreversible hearing loss. These loud sounds cause damage to the ear structures and delicate hair cells, which play a vital role in transmitting sound waves to the brain.

The most common symptom of noise-induced hearing loss is a gradual onset of high-frequency hearing loss. The progressive nature of the damage - and the fact that it does not hurt - means many people do not notice anything is wrong until it is already quite severe.

There are 11 million people with hearing loss in the UK, that's around one in six of us. By 2035, this is estimated to increase to one in five, with around 15.6 million people with hearing loss across the UK. Find out more facts about hearing loss on the Action on hearing loss website.

Diagram showing the structure of the ear

Hearing loss is not inevitable

The risk of noise-induced hearing loss can be significantly reduced through the proper selection and use of hearing protection. Contrary to popular belief, hearing loss is not inevitable - it can be prevented by identifying the exposure levels, reducing the risk of harmful noise levels at source, or by wearing adequate and suitable hearing protection which has been correctly fitted.

Next steps

uvex offers effective training packages which highlight the health benefits of protecting employees from hearing loss. Following a noise assessment, our professionals are available to guide you through the process of selecting the right hearing protection based on noise exposure levels. We also deliver training to ensure correct fitting for maximum protection and comfort.

If you have any questions regarding hearing protection, contact your local uvex representative who will be happy to help:

Contact your Regional Manager

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Watch our helpful video

How to insert disposable hearing protection plugs correctly

What is noise induced hearing loss?