Chapter 16NOISE

Robert A. Dobie

About five to nine million Americans had potentially hazardous noise exposures in the workplace in the 1980s;1,2 massive job reductions in manufacturing in the United States since then have surely reduced the number at risk. Noise can be annoying and distracting. It interferes with spoken communication and masks the warning signals necessary for safety and productivity. As one of several generalized stressors, noise may contribute to cardiovascular disorders. However, the most important and best-characterized effect of excessive noise exposure is hearing loss. It is widely believed that reducing noise to a level low enough to prevent hearing loss will also prevent its other harmful effects (some important exceptions to this rule will be noted later). Therefore, this chapter will primarily deal with noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), with special emphasis on risk assessment and prevention.

OCCUPATIONAL SETTING

Excessive noise is produced by an almost infinite variety of processes—anything that cuts, grinds, collides, explodes, or just moves (itself, another object, or a gas or liquid) will make noise. The industries listed in Table 16.1 are responsible for much of the hazardous occupational noise exposures in the United States. In some industry groups such as fishing, forestry, construction, transportation, trade, and services, fewer than half of workers receive hazardous exposures. According to surveys, >50% of workers in such industries as ...

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