The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that four million Americans work in an environment with damaging noise. NIOSH recommends an exposure limit of 85 dBA for either hours a day and uses a 3 dB time intensity trade off.1 The chart below illustrates noise exposure levels related to more common everyday sounds along with some earplug options. In the United States, hearing protection devices such as earplugs and earmuffs require a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) to be listed on packaging.  The NRR is a decibel value reflecting the level of attenuation a hearing protection product provides as evaluated under laboratory conditions.  The higher the NRR value, the greater the attenuation and presumed better protection from noise-induced hearing loss. This chart can be used to help identify your patient’s everyday noise exposure level, and then find a hearing conservation product with a NRR that will bring the patient’s exposure level as close to 85dBA as possible. Educate our patients about occupational and recreational noise exposure by using the chart below to start a conversation about hearing conservation.For a comprehensive comparison of insert earplug NRRs, see EARPLUG COMPARISON CHART.  See resource section at the bottom of this page for additional information on noise exposure including the difference between NIOSH versus OSHA permissible noise exposure limits. 

Decibel Thermometer Final

1. http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/stats.html

Additional Resources:

  1. NIOSH and OSHA Permissible Noise Exposure Limits: What is the Difference?
  2. NIOSH Recommendations for a Noise Standard
  3. OSHA Fact Sheet: Laboratory Safety Noise