Can you hear me now?
With the exception of TIG, electric arc welding generates harmful levels of noise. Welding is noisy. The tasks which welders and pipefitters carry out are noisy. Welding is typically done in an already noisy environment. Add those factors together and it becomes apparent we could have an issue.
Sound pressure is measured in units called decibels or dBA. At less than 75dBA, sounds - even after long exposure - are unlikely to cause hearing loss. However, long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85dBA can cause Noise Induced Hearing Loss or NIHL.
The louder the sound, the less time it takes for NIHL to occur. Not by coincidence, the OSHA action level for a Hearing Conservation Program and wearing of hearing protection are exposures to an average of 85dBA for 8 hours.
Many of our more common tasks are above this action level.
Each task measured on the bar graph and the dBA (or noise) it creates is dependent upon multiple factors. One such factor that is likely to increase noise levels is an increase of consumable diameter and increasing current. Likewise, the type of metal upon which we’re working will also have an effect. Stainless steel typically produces higher noise levels than mild steel. When cutting or gouging, the thickness of material being worked will affect the noise produced, with thicker materials producing higher decibels.
3 Facts you need to know about NIHL:
- NIHL is permanent
- Only treatment for NIHL is a hearing aid
- More than 25 million Americans suffer from NIHL
The best prevention for hearing loss:
- Work with equipment that is engineered for noise reduction
- When you have to raise your voice to speak to someone at 3 feet away - use hearing protection
- Keep music at lower levels
- Distance yourself from loud noises when possible