Reinvigorating Engineered Noise Controls: A Systems Approach

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Excerpt: Hearing loss is a major worldwide health issue affecting an estimated 1.5 billion people. Causes of hearing loss include genetics, chemicals, medications, lifestyle habits such as smoking, and noise. Noise is probably the largest contributing factor for hearing loss. Noise arises from the workplace, ambient environment, and leisure activities. The easiest noise sources to control are workplace and environmental. Workplace noise is unique in that the employer is responsible for the noise and the worker. Also, workers may be exposed to much higher levels of noise than they would accept elsewhere. Employers follow the traditional hierarchy of controls (substitution/engineering, administrative, personal protective equipment [PPE]). Substituting or engineering a lower noise level actually reduces the hazard present to the worker but demand more capital investment. Administrative and PPE controls can be effective, but enforcement and motivation are essential to reducing risk and there is still some hearing loss for a portion of the workers. The challenge is to estimate the costs more clearly for managers. A systems engineering approach can help visualize factors affecting hearing health.


This article was published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Poland license. (CC BY-NC 3.0 PL DEED).

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At time of publication, author J. Slagley was co-affiliated with the Nofer Institute for Occupational Medicine, Department of Vibroacoustic Hazards

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International Journal of Occupational Medicine and Environmental Health