Who’s most at risk?
We live in an increasingly noisy world. Almost all of the combustion vehicles which occupy our streets produce around 70-80 decibels of sound, giving some cities an average noise level of around 60dB (the sound level of a normal conversation) at all times.
We don’t just live in the world however, we work in it too. Some people also spend prolonged periods of time exposed to loud noise due to their workplace. Today, we’re going to be finding out which workplaces have the loudest average noise, so we’ll be using dBA (average decibels).
We’re going to work our way down from loud to loudest starting with quite a surprising one.
A child screaming is known to be very high pitch. Young children can also be very loud, especially when playing at break/lunch time. It only makes sense therefore, that frequent exposure to these loud high-pitch cries can damage hearing.
A class of children can actually produce around 85dB which is over the legal safety limit for long periods of time.
Fact: Some people with severe, high-frequency hearing losses cannot hear children’s voices at all.
If you follow our YouTube channel, you’ll be aware of our focus on exposure to loud noise from motorcycles, and the dangers it poses to the riders. In short, motorcycles are very loud. The engines themselves output around 80dBA (limited only by the law), and wind noise is an important factor to consider also.
Riding a motorcycle at just 50mph exposes the rider to 90dBA, even under the helmet.
With the rise of many couriers using motorcycles these days, it is an increasingly common way of making a living for young people, many of which do not wear any ear protection. As with all loud noise, it’s a question of exposure time and if your job involves riding a motorcycle around all day; you can expect some hearing damage over time.
Fact: Most of the dangerous noise on motorbikes is actually generated by the wind and not the engine.
Up next as you may have expected, is musicians. Specifically classical musicians.
Obviously musicians deal primarily with a lot of loud sounds. We can’t call it noise because it’s desirable sound, but it damages hair cells in your cochlear none-the-less.
Most musicians wear ear protection or in-ear monitors when performing or playing, but anybody that doesn’t wear protection is exposed to up to 95dB.
Fact: The flute is the loudest non-amplified instrument at up to 95dB.
Factory and Farm Workers
Anybody who works with any type of machinery tends to be exposed to loud noise. This is especially true in large industrial factories, which are essentially rooms filled to the brim with large machines.
These louder machines are often also found on farms and can generate a serious amount of noise. Anybody spending prolonged periods in industrial factories should be protecting their ears at all times to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus.
Fact: Pigs can squeal at up to 105dB!
Night Club Workers
Next on our list is nightclubs. Nightclubs are infamous for being very loud environments. Frequent attendance of nightclubs often leads to temporary tinnitus for a few hours after leaving the club, a symptom which is felt especially by nightclub staff.
Club bouncers are normally safe as they remain outside the club doors, but bar staff inside are not. Some staff work late night shifts, spending as many as 8 hours in a 115dBA environment. This is extremely unsafe, and many nightclubs are introducing ear protection for staff and encouraging break periods.
Fact: Recent studies show that just one night in a very loud environment could cause irreparable damage
Construction workers are amongst the most at-risk of loud noise. This is due mainly to loud tools and machinery, and studies have shown that around 30 million construction workers in the UK are exposed to prolonged hazardous noise on a regular basis. Also, 14% of all construction workers have hearing difficulties caused directly by noise exposure.
Almost all construction equipment outputs 85dBA. In fact, the only things surpassing these tools in noise are jet planes taking off, stadium noise, fireworks, firearms and space-launches.
Within construction, ironworkers are the most at risk with an average noise level of 91.9dBA, this is closely followed by carpenters, labourers and masonry workers.
Fact: The loudest construction tool is the Hammer Drill which produces 120dBA
(at 120dB, your ears will last only 20-30 seconds before permanent damage occurs)
Formula One Racers
Racing has always been a very loud sport. As mentioned with motorbikes, it’s not just the engine of the vehicle but also the wind turbulence which generates the immense noise associated.
Formula One race car drivers are exposed to a whopping 135dB even under their helmets! For this reason, they need serious ear protection, almost as much as our top spot on the list…
Airport Ground Staff
At the top of our list, Airport Ground Staff are exposed to the most noise of any profession. Jet planes taking off output around (140dB) which is deadly to the hair cells in your ear. Just 10-20 seconds of exposure to this will cause permanent damage to hearing. You’ve probably seen the brightly coloured headphones they wear over their earplugs underneath- and this is all to protect them from one of the loudest man-made things.
Fact: The loudest propeller-thrusted plane ever built was the Republic XF-84H Thunderscreech- which can be heard 25 miles away!