Noise & Hearing Loss Prevention: About Noise & Hearing Loss

worker wearing hearing protection

National Goals, Policies, and Standards

Occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. Approximately 22 million U.S. workers exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, and an additional 9 million exposed to ototoxic chemicals. An estimated $242 million is spent annually on worker’s compensation for hearing loss disability. NIOSH recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace whenever possible and using hearing protectors in those situations where dangerous noise exposures have not yet been controlled or eliminated.

National Goals on Workplace Hearing Loss Prevention

The National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA)
A national partnership program to stimulate innovative research and improved workplace practices.

NIOSH Program Portfolio: Hearing Loss Prevention
NIOSH’s planned program of research in occupational hearing loss.

Healthy People 2020external icon
Science-based, 10-year national objectives for improving the health of all Americans.

National Standards and Policies on Workplace Hearing Loss Prevention

NIOSH Recommendations for a Noise Standard
The NIOSH recommended exposure limit (REL) for occupational noise exposure encompasses the provisions in Sections 1.1.1 through 1.1.4. The REL is 85 decibels, A-weighted, as an 8-hr time-weighted average (85 dBA as an 8-hr TWA). Exposures at and above this level are considered hazardous.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limit (PEL)external icon
The OSHA PEL for noise is 90 dBA, as an eight hour time-weighted average (TWA). The PEL is also referred to as a 100 percent “dose” noise exposure.

Page last reviewed: August 15, 2013