Quiet, Please, Part 2: Hearing Loss from Loud Noise May be the Least of Your Worries
Loud noises can threaten our wellbeing even before we’re born
A normal conversation you had earlier exposed you to sounds of around 60 decibels. If you work around construction equipment, you’re likely exposed to sounds of 95 decibels or more. Sound at this level is harmful and will cause hearing loss.
It’s not a straightforward cause/effect equation. The length of time you’re exposed to a sound, as well as your distance from it, factor into the level of harm it’ll cause. Common sense dictates that you should avoid loud noises that you’ll be exposed to for long periods of time and/or wear ear protection. And the consequences are more than hearing loss.
More than the obvious
We looked at how loud noises can contribute to heart disease in Part 1 of this series. That’s serious enough as it is—but it’s far from the extent of how noise pollution can harm your health. Extended exposure to loud noise has been shown to have an impact on cognitive development in children, and noise can even affect us even before we’re born. A recent study on pregnant women found that exposure to noise pollution may be a cause of lower birth weight.
It’ll take much more research to produce conclusive evidence, but research is already showing that loud noises produce cognitive and psychological problems for adults. Consider this real-life scenario. A study of traffic wardens—those folks who stand in intersections to direct the flow of traffic and pedestrians—in the country of Pakistan found some alarming things. These individuals were exposed to noise levels of between 85 to 106 decibels throughout their shifts. After physical and psychological evaluations, it was determined that:
- 58% suffered from aggravated depression
- 65% showed signs of stress
- 87% had signs of hypertension
- 93% suffered from concentration impairment
- 69% had pronounced hearing impairment
- 71% exhibited signs of cardiovascular disease
It’s a guy thing
Noise pollution is an equal opportunity harmful situation—but it might cause a specific a concern for men. A scientific study has shown that chronic noise exposure at about 100 decibels led to significant reduction of testosterone levels in male laboratory animals.
The study concluded that the type of chronic psychological stress caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise can cause suppression of the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis. This may lead the body being unable to produce sufficient testosterone.
Protect your hearing to protect your health
It’s easy to say that loud noises are simply a part of life when you’re in the construction or landscaping business. The noise of diesel engines or leaf blowers is unavoidable. But it’s not true.
There are federal regulations in place that protect you. Guidelines issued by OSHA limit the maximum exposure to certain sounds. We shared examples of some of these OSHA guidelines in Part 1 [backlink]. Ignore these guidelines at your peril, and of course always use hearing protection when it’s called for.
Consider this innovative alternative, too: Battery-powered construction and landscaping equipment can create a significantly less noisy workplace. It’s good for your employees, and those who live or work nearby will be appreciative, too. Battery-powered construction equipment is not a sacrifice. It’s just as powerful, but without the combustion engine exhaust that harms your lungs or the noise that harms your ears—and as it turns out, many other parts of the human body.
Silence is golden in more ways than one. Battery-powered construction and landscaping equipment slashes your fuel operating costs to zero. But go ahead and allow yourself to make a bit of loud noises. You’re going to cheer when you calculate how fast a single battery-powered piece of equipment can pay for itself and start adding profit to your bottom line.