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Noise & Hearing Conservation

Noise is defined as unwanted sound and exposure to loud and prolonged noise can damage hearing. Employees who work in areas where high noise levels (more than 85 decibels averaged over eight hours) exist must be enrolled in the Montgomery College Hearing Conservation Program. The purpose of the program is to prevent noise-induced hearing loss caused by exposure to these conditions.

Employees in the program must receive training from Occupational and Environmental Safety  (OES) every year and are also required to obtain a baseline and annual hearing test. Employees may also be required to wear hearing protection under certain conditions or in specific environments where loud noise is present. See the Hearing Protection page for more information on the different types of hearing protection devices.

OSHA’s Noise Standard

The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a permissible exposure limit for noise that is an 8-hour time-weighted average (sound levels averaged over an 8 hour day) of 90 decibels (dB) and an action level of 85 dB. A healthy person exposed below these levels, day after day, is unlikely to experience noise-induced hearing loss. The standard also states that no individual may be exposed to noise levels above 115 dB at any time.

Nuisance Noise

Noise levels below 85 dB (averaged over 8 hours) are considered nuisance noise. While nuisance noise does not generally cause injury directly, in some instances it may mask sounds indicative of other developing hazards and may be a source of annoyance. While OES may take measurements or provide other consultative services in instances of nuisance noise, it is not the purpose of the Hearing Conservation Program to deal with such situations.

If you feel that your noise exposure may exceed any of these levels, contact OES to conduct an evaluation.

Noise Ordinance Montgomery County (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)
Noise Ordinance City of Tacoma Park (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)

Hearing Loss Prevention Program

The Hearing Loss Prevention Program encourages all MC departments to minimize the risk of noise-induced hearing loss to employees, researchers, students and visitors.

Essential parts of the program are to:

  1. Identify and assess areas and activities where employees may be exposed to:
    *high noise levels that may exceed 85 decibels (dBA) averaged over an eight-hour period,
    *extreme noise levels of 115 dBA at any time (greater than one second)
    *extreme impact noise levels of 140 dBA (less than one second)
  2. Reduce or control noise using engineering and administrative controls, where feasible.
  3. Post signs at noise areas and require hearing protectors.
  4. Identify employees who need hearing protection.
  5. Provide hearing protectors to employees and train them in their use.

What you need to know

  • Identify areas of excessive noise and affected employees.
  • Coordinate sound level surveys and personnel monitoring for noise exposure, conducted by OES, to provide a quantitative assessment of noise hazards in your workplace.
  • If employees are exposed to noise above 90 dBA averaged over the work shift, implement engineering or administrative controls.
  • See How can noise be eliminated from the workplace? Reducing Hazards from Noise (OSHA).
  • Ensure individuals exposed to noise levels at or above 85 dBA averaged over an 8-hour work shift are enrolled in the Hearing Loss Prevention Program, receive training and medical surveillance.
  • Ensure staff has taken the Hearing Conservation training.
  • Provide at least two types of hearing protectors to employees if controls cannot be implemented, and for all employees exposed to noise levels at or over 85 dBA averaged over an 8-hour work shift, greater than 115 dBA any time and 140 dBA impact noise any time.
  • Ensure hearing protectors are worn properly.
  • Post caution signs where noise may exceed 85 dBA averaged over an 8-hour work shift.
  • Post danger signs where noise may exceed 115dBA, even intermittently.
  • Ensure that reports of high noise are investigated.
  • Maintain records as required.
  • Report elevated noise levels, noisy equipment and hearing protector problems to supervisor.
  • Take training on Hearing Conservation.
  • Choose the most comfortable, effective hearing protection devices that fit well. Remember that the BEST protector is one you'll wear. Earplugs are available in different sizes and shapes to fit different ear canals; earmuffs are easy to put on and take off for short-term loud noise exposure. A combination of earmuffs and earplugs may be needed.
  • Wear hearing protectors in posted noise areas.
  • Keep hearing protectors clean and replace when necessary.
  • Take baseline and annual audiogram tests.
  • Oversee and maintain MC Hearing Loss Prevention Program.
  • Monitor work sites for noise levels and inform employees and supervisors of results.
  • Recommend engineering and administrative controls wherever practical.
  • Assist employees and supervisors in selecting proper hearing protection devices, and provide training on use.
  • Assist with proper area signage.
  • Provide information and training on noise hazards and hearing conservation.
  • Maintain records as required.
What you can do to stay safe

Employees, faculty, students:

  1. If you think you are exposed to loud noise at work, tell your supervisor or manager
  2. Wear your hearing protective devices
  3. Have hearing tested (audiometric testing) for baseline and annually.

Services available

Occupational and Environmental Safety provides the following services:

  • Sound level surveys and personnel monitoring for noise exposure
  • Quantitative assessment of noise hazards
  • Training
  • Work with employees to select proper hearing protection devices
  • Work with departments on engineering and administrative controls and proper area signage

Additional Resources

Montgomery County Noise Control a Sound Solution Brochure (PDF, Get Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader - Link opens in new window)