The danger of Sound Emissions

This will probably come as no surprise that the human ear can take only so much noise before it makes a command decision to hit the mute button on the world. We’re talkin “deaf” here folks and that ain’t good.

So let’s take a moment to chat about noise and how your lawn equipment is treating you.

Just exactly what are we talking about here?

Well, the data leaves little room for debate, so I’m going to let the experts speak for me here…

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that…

“Every year, approximately 30 million people in the United States are occupationally exposed to hazardous noise. Noise-related hearing loss has been listed as one of the most prevalent occupational health concerns in the United States for more than 25 years. In 2004, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that nearly 125,000 workers have suffered significant, permanent hearing loss. In 2009 alone, Bureau of Labor Statistics reported more than 21,000 hearing loss cases.”

Do I have your attention yet? No? Well, read on…

“OSHA sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. These limits are…90 DBA for all workers for an 8 hour day.”

And to push the matter home…

“The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has recommended that all worker exposures to noise should be controlled below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours to minimize occupational noise induced hearing loss.”

“Ok, fine! So only so many decibels in so much time. I think I get it. Quick question though….what’s a decibel?”

We measure noise through units of pressure called “decibels”. There’s a lot of math involved, but the bottom line is that the louder the sound is, the greater the pressure it causes; thus the more decibels.

Alexander Graham Bell came up with that, and he was real smart.

So those sound waves enter the outer ear, travel to the inner ear and impact the a small snail-like structure called the cochlea. The cochlea is filled with fluid and lined with very fine hairs. These microscopic hairs move with the vibrations and convert the sound waves into nerve impulses and the result is the sound we hear.

Here’s the shocker! Exposure to loud noise can destroy these hair cells and cause hearing loss! Bald cochleas is bad! Tell your friends!

“I ain’t flying a jet plane, I’m just working around my yard.”

It’s not always how loud the sound is, but the extended exposure to it. Once again, the fine folks at the CDC have provided a great little illustration to really put it in perspective and it can be viewed by clicking this link:

Remember, the legal limit in the workplace is “below a level equivalent to 85 dBA for eight hours”. That’s the equivalent of listening to a hand drill for 8 hours.

How does your chainsaw compare? Most are rated at 110dba. Most string trimmers are rated at just over 100dba and the average walk behind lawn mower is rated at 90dba.

So, according to the CDC, without adequate NIOSH recognized hearing protection, you shouldn’t operate your chainsaw or trimmer for more than 90 seconds at a time, and your mower….about an hour.
So, what are you saying? (No pun intended)
Hearing protection is a simple, affordable option which is sadly overlooked by most. There seems to be an attitude of “overkill” when it comes to gloves and safety glasses, especially we’re working at home. Let me assure you that when it comes to your hearing, it is not overkill. I’ll bet that you take your hearing for granted. I definitely do as do most people who have healthy hearing.

But ask someone with a hearing aid. See what they have to say about it.

Look, no one’s saying put on a helmet when you mow the yard. But when you consider how affordable and readily available hearing protection is these days, it’s kind of ridiculous not to use it. Isn’t it? And the payoff is huge.

So, don’t take a chance with your hearing. Get some protection before firing up your machine. You’ll thank yourself, and you’ll be able to hear yourself thanking yourself because you wore hearing protection!

Can you hear me now? GREAT!

-Bill carries a bunch of different types of hearing protection. Shop Hearing Protection.

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Bill Brown

Bill is the head of content creation for the LawnMowerPros Blog and DIY section. He’s been in the Outdoor Power Equipment Industry for years and he’s still learning new things everyday. You can often find him creating featured articles, DIY guides, videos, graphics and much more.