Noise is a form of physical danger in workplaces. Duration of exposure, volume, and frequency of the loud sound requires providing hearing protection to workers. Otherwise, a direct health impact would be hearing loss, which can be short- or long-term. Familiar noise sources in occupational settings include equipment, machines, and conversations. But how loud is too loud? In an office, 60dB sound of muffled conversations is okay. However, a vacuum cleaner producing 70 dB of wavelength can seem noisy to most listeners. It is to give a hint that different environments and sources matter.
Overview of noise
Noise is an everyday thing available in various forms and sizes. One can understand them better only by recognizing the different sound or noise types. A beep, the sound of the flying plane’s engine, or a piece of equipment in your office creates sound. Knowing the difference between their sound levels can help you choose better solutions for your workplace. Before you begin, let’s clarify that sound and noise are two things. The latter one is undesirable and irritating. You can trust your ears to pick noise from sound as you feel uncomfortable or irritated by specific vibrations.
Noise types, in general
Impulsive, low-frequency, continuous, and intermittent are the four broad categories. When something like a machine produces a sound nonstop, it feels like noise. You can gauge the level of its loudness with a proper sound dosimeter. Those who want to do more about this can leverage octave band techniques to isolate noise by its frequencies to identify the exact point that turns it into noisy sound. The demolition and construction industry usually witnesses impulsive noise – sudden and fast bursts created by pile drivers or explosions. A noise dosimeter can measure the Peak values. In this context, one must remember that a single loud sound occurrence, even in a quiet environment, can also affect people negatively. That’s why you must track average noise value too.
If you consider intermittent noise, it can go up and down faster. Imagine a plane flying overhead, a train chugging away, and factory machinery running in cycles. A sound level meter can calculate the intensity of intermittent noise just as continuous sound. While measuring it, you must check the gap between two noise occurrences and their duration. Make sure you check the estimates multiple times to gain accuracy. Some meters calculate sound as LAeq or constant noise levels. Finally, low-frequency noises analyze sound levels with the octave band and a noise dosimeter. It also requires using A- and C-weighted measurements to understand the amount of low-frequency levels of noise. For the uninitiated, frequency weightings capture sound frequencies audible to humans.
Nevertheless, low-frequency noise sources can be most challenging to control because of constant exposure to them and their broader coverage. These sounds form the daily soundscape. Think of diesel engines or neighboring power stations, for instance.
Common noise hazards at workplaces
As mentioned, hearing loss is a common health phenomenon caused by noise pollution in offices or sites. But still, this area remains highly neglected because of the inconspicuous consequences. It can be surprising, but hearing loss is the third leading physical condition in adults, with one of its primary sources being noise hazards in workplaces, as pointed out by CDC. Data reveal nearly 12% of the workforce has hearing difficulty. Your employees’ prolonged exposure to loud background sounds at the workplace is a health risk. They remain unaware of its impact on their health, so they will likely not use any protective gear to take care of their hearing loss. That’s why it becomes even more essential to install office noise cancelling solutions.
Ambient noise is a reality in modern workplaces. Everything adds to increased noise levels, from coffee blenders to grinders, loud and constant conversations, to equipment. Plus, some offices play music. It can also be detrimental, though to a lesser degree. No matter the source of noise, it ruins employees’ health. Their bodies release higher stress hormones, causing them to encounter fight-or-flight instincts. The increased stress levels can make them more vulnerable to other chronic health troubles. For instance, the brain can suffer from inflammation, leading to cardiovascular ailment. If you were unaware, even prolonged exposure to traffic noise harms the body.
Due to stressful working environments, people experience higher adrenalin and cortisol rush amidst stressful working environments, which affect arteries. CDC report suggests that loud environments commonly cause cholesterol and high BP in staff. Eventually, it pumps up blood pressure levels and causes heart attacks. The experts warn that loud noise doesn’t even spare mental health. Noise annoyance can cause anxiety and depression in employees.
Solutions for noise control in office
You must have heard about the rising sound masking technology in many modern offices today. You install a sound-generating machine at the proper location (s) to mask the background noise. Although the device only reduces the noise impact, you can still refer to its functioning as noise cancellation. It’s more affordable and convenient than doing structural changes. Explore a suitable option, and get the engineer or technician to place the equipment. Once integrated into the office, you and your employees will notice a vast improvement. At the same time, you can add sound-absorbing panels, curtains, and walls across the space to decrease high-decibel sound.
Numerous methods are available to make your office environment friendly for your employees and their well-being. You can incorporate innovative technologies and traditional techniques to create the best experience for everyone. After all, employees are the backbones of any organization. They help you achieve growth and success. If their health suffers, organizational goals will take longer to materialize. You can take your first step by adding sound masking equipment. Many places offer these devices at attractive pricing. Check their features, area coverage, controls, and more. Also, a reliable brand can give you a high-end, efficient, and cost-effective product. If you need help deciding what to add and how, consult a sound designer. Their knowledge and experience allow them to pick the best solutions for an environment.