Hearing Protection: Measuring Sound
Loudness is measured in decibels (dB). As decibels rise, loudness quickly increases. A 10-dB rise is a 10-time leap in loudness. That means an 80-dB sound (a vacuum cleaner) is 10 times louder than a 70-dB sound (a telephone ringing) and 100 times louder than a 60-dB sound (normal conversation).
When you need protection
At the workplace, your employer measures noise with sound level meters and dosimeters. If the average noise exposure over an 8-hour work shift is 85 dB or higher, you need protection. OSHA requires your employer to have a hearing conservation program. From 85 dB to 125 dB, you can lose hearing painlessly. Over 125 dB, you may feel pain. As loudness and pitch rise, you may get acoustic trauma. That means a single exposure can cause permanent hearing loss.
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