Preventing Occupational Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

The six steps of preventing occupational noise-induced hearing loss pictured as multi-colored circles.

Noise-induced hearing loss is nearly always preventable.

Noise is part of everyday life, but at certain levels it can become hazardous.

Repeated exposures to sounds that are 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) or higher can cause permanent hearing loss and are associated with other problems including

  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Cardiovascular disease

High noise levels can also contribute to serious workplace accidents and injuries. Noise can reduce workers’ awareness of what is happening around them, including signals, alarms, and verbal warnings.

Reducing workplace noise below 85 dBA is the best way to prevent occupational hearing loss and other effects from hazardous noise. Additional benefits of reducing worker noise exposure include

  • Less stress and fatigue
  • Increased productivity and better morale
  • Improved relations with management
  • Lower workers’ compensation costs

This guide will walk employers and safety professionals step by step through the basics of creating a safer, quieter workplace and protecting workers from noise-induced hearing loss. The guide includes

  • The basics of defining and assessing noise
  • How to minimize noise exposure in the workplace through engineering and administrative controls
  • How to monitor workers for potential hearing loss
  • Best practices for hearing loss prevention programs
  • How to evaluate success and identify areas for improvements

Until you reduce workplace noise levels to under 85 dBA, workers should be protected by establishing an effective hearing loss prevention program (HLPP).

This guide follows the structure of a HLPP, while incorporating the best practices such as the hierarchy of controls. This guide aims to protect workers as much as possible while saving companies time and money through easy-to-implement solutions.

More detailed information in also available in the NIOSH Practical Guide for Preventing Occupational Hearing Loss.


If you reduce noise to safe levels in the first two steps of a hearing loss prevention program (sometimes called a hearing conservation program), you no longer need to implement a full program as long as you can verify that employee noise exposures remain below 85 dBA.