Noise is part of everyday life, but loud noise can permanently damage your hearing. Conversations become difficult or impossible; your family complains about the television being too loud and you have trouble using the telephone.

What is the Problem with Noise?

Permanent tinnintus (ringing in the ears) can also occur. The damage can be instant, for very loud or explosive noises, but generally it is gradual. By the time you notice, it is probably too late.

Operating power tools, by their nature, creates noise.

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Is There a Noise Problem Where I Work?

If the answer is yes to any of the questions below then the following section will be worth reading.

Do you use tools that are noisy?
Do you work in a noisy workplace such as a manufacting plant or construction site?

Minimising Exposure to Noise

Protect yourself against noise by:

Co-operating: Help your employer to do what is needed to protect your hearing. Make sure you use properly any noise control devices (e.g. noise enclosures), and follow any working methods that are put in place. Also attend hearing checks. This means you need to take some responsibility for your hearing.

Wearing any ear protection you are given: Wear it properly (you should be trained how to do this), and make sure you wear it all the time when you are doing noisy work, and when you are in hearing protection areas. Taking it off even for a short while means that your hearing could still be damaged. Remember that there is no cure for deafness.

Looking after your hearing protection: Your employer should tell you how to look after it and where you can get it from. Make sure you understand what you need to do.

Report any problems: Report any problems with your hearing protection or noise control devices straight away. Let your employer or safety representative know. If you have any ear trouble, let your employer know.

Health surveillance: Control noise at the source, recognise work patterns, use different equipment, use different processes, check and recognise the lay out of the workplace to allow noise absorption from noisy work areas, thereby reducing the effect on others. Limit the time spent working in noisy areas.

Ensure hearing protection is provided and used.

Noise Health & Safety

Noise: Are you at risk? You are at risk if you can answer 'yes' to any of the following questions about the noise where you work:

Is the noise intrusive like a busy street, a vacuum cleaner or a crowded restaurant - for all or most of the day?
Do you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2m apart for at least part of the day?
Do you use noisy power tools or machinery for over half an hour a day?
Do you work in a noisy industry, e.g. construction, demolition or road repair; wood working; plastics processing; engineering?
Are there noises because of impacts (e.g. hammering, drop forging, pneumatic impact tools etc.), explosive sources such as cartridge-operated tools or detonators, or guns?
Do you have muffled hearing at the end of the day, even if it is better by the nest morning?


There are various regulations within the EU to monitor and manage noise in the workplace and the environment and reduce the damaging effects of uncontrolled noise. Noise can be split into 2 catagories, both covered by EU Directives and member states regulations:

  1. Noise at work "Directive 2003/10/EC"
  2. Noise in the environment "Directive 2005/88/EC amended by Directive 2000/14/EC"