The Risks of Noise

Did you know that hearing loss is one of the most commonly reported physical occupational diseases in the world? Many people are exposed to dangerous noise levels in their daily work, and the bad news is that hearing loss is always permanent. The good news is that it is easy to avoid! This guide explains when noise is dangerous, and how to protect yourself from that danger.


Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is an accumulated disease that increases at every over-exposure. The damage to your hearing from loud noise is done slowly, usually over the course of many years. This makes it difficult to discover at an early stage.

When you are exposed to noise, the cells in your ear swell and become stiff. This can cause a temporary hearing disorder. If the exposure continues, the cells will eventually die, causing permanent hearing loss. Long-term noise exposure can also cause tinnitus and hyperacusis – sensitivity to certain sounds. Although the damage is physical, hearing loss can also affect your mental health. Problems like not being able to hear what your grandchildren are saying or feeling limited in your social life can cause depression and stress, which in turn can lead to high blood pressure.

How Does Noise Cause Hearing Loss?

Here is an unscientific but easy to grasp explanation: Imagine that the total noise exposure that is safe to endure during a day fits into a plain drinking glass. All the noise you are exposed to during the day is like water poured into that glass. When you sleep, the content of the glass disappears, and you start with an empty glass the next day. But if the glass has overflowed, a night’s rest is not enough to get rid of all the water. The next day, the glass is already half-full when you start your day. If this continues during a long period of time, the hearing organ becomes exhausted and eventually damaged.

If the imaginary glass of water is filled up during your working day, there is no room left for all the noise you encounter in your spare time. By using hearing protection when working in noisy environments, you decrease the amount of water in the glass and create an exposure buffer.


When Do I Need Hearing Protection?

According to EU noise directive 2003/10/EC, hearing protection must be used if the average noise level is 85 dB or higher, and it is recommended from an average level of 80 dB. However, at Hellberg we recommend always reducing noise levels to a maximum of 75 dB. This is because noise reduction can be affected by a number of external factors.

If you are unsure of the noise level, a useful rule of thumb is that if you need to raise your voice to be heard when standing one meter from someone else, the noise level is likely dangerous.

The attenuation of noise provided by your hearing protector can decrease due to insufficient fitting, misuse and poor maintenance. Long hair, beards and glasses can affect the fit of the protector. The greater the noise abatement, the more your hearing is protected. But remember that too much attenuation can be dangerous too, for example if it stops you from hearing warning signals. That is why it is very important to choose the correct hearing protection based on your needs. Our selection guide will help you find the right hearing protectors for you.

Two handymans with passiv hearingprotection

Keep Your Hearing Protection On!

Removing your hearing protectors while working in dangerous noise levels is easily done. Perhaps you just lift a cup to hear what a colleague says or remove the protectors altogether to answer a phone call.

Unfortunately, even short exposures to loud noise can cause damage, despite long intervals of adequate protection. If removing or just lifting the hearing protection for less than a total of ten minutes a day, the attenuation effect drops drastically. This is especially true at higher frequencies where attenuation is optimal. Hellberg offers a wide range of hearing protection with a variety of features such as active listening, Bluetooth and two-way communication, to ensure that your hearing is protected at all times. Choose the right hearing protectors for your needs – that way you never need to remove them while exposed to dangerous noise.

Facts about Sound

  • Sound is vibration causing pressure. It is measured in in decibel (dB) and frequency (Hz).
  • dB is a logarithmic scale. For example, an increase of 3 dB doubles the sound pressure level. The difference between 0 dB and 120 dB, which is the pain threshold, is around 100 billion times.
  • A small increase in dB represents a gigantic increase of noise exposure risk.
  • Frecuency is the number of oscillations per second. Humans can hear frequencies between 20-20 000 Hz.
  • The most common sounds, like that of human speech, are found in the mid- to high frequency range (500-4000Hz). This is where human hearing works best, but it is also where your hearing is most sensitive to overexposure.