Construction Site Noise: How Loud is Too Loud?

A construction site is a noisy place, meaning construction workers are subject to loud noise for long periods of time. In fact, 30 million construction workers are exposed to prolonged hazardous noise on a regular basis, and 14% of all construction workers have hearing difficulty because of this.

Sound intensity is measured in units called decibels (dBA). The hearing threshold of the human ear is 0 decibels, yet the average person can hear sounds as low as 10 decibels, such as a leaf falling from a tree. While we are able to hear sound above 140 decibels, this level is painful to our ears.

Any sound at 85 dBA or higher can cause ear damage. The longer you’re exposed to this level, the more it can damage your hearing. Extended exposure to noises at 85 dBA or higher can lead to permanent damage, or worse, hearing loss. Construction workers are at high risk because the equipment they use regularly, like forklifts and bulldozers, is well above the 85 dBA level.

Let’s explore how construction noise compares to everyday sounds, the average exposure of common trades, and what construction workers can do to protect their hearing and prevent hearing loss.

Infographic describing how construction noise levels compare to other sounds, their exposure limits, and tips to protect your hearing.

Construction workers are exposed to painfully loud equipment for prolonged periods of time. Although 51% of construction workers are exposed to hazardous noise, 31% report not wearing any hearing protection. Permanent hearing loss can never be repaired, so it’s important to be educated on the noise levels that cause ear damage. Take precautions and prevent hearing damage whenever possible.

Industrial Noise Control | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention | Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health | Hearing Doctors | OSHA Pocket Guide | University of Washington Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences

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