Noise – Reproductive Health


Working in a noisy job when you’re pregnant can affect your hearing and increase your stress levels. When the noise level is very high it may increase your chances of having a baby with hearing problems. Learn more about noise at work and what you can do to reduce your exposure.

Why should I be concerned about noise?

  • Increased noise levels can cause stress. This can cause changes in a pregnant woman’s body that can affect her developing baby.
  • Sound can travel through your body and reach your baby. Very loud noises may be able to damage your baby’s hearing.
  • Ear plugs or earmuffs can protect your hearing, but if you’re pregnant the only way to protect your baby’s hearing is to stay away from loud noise as much as possible.

Who works in noisy jobs?

Many women work in noisy jobs, especially women who work with

  • machines,
  • guns,
  • loud music,
  • crowds of people,
  • sirens,
  • trucks, or
  • airplanes.

What is not known?

  • We don’t always know what causes hearing problems in babies. If you work in a noisy job and have a baby with hearing problems, we may not be able to tell if this was caused by your job or by something else.
  • We don’t know for sure what levels of noise are safe for pregnant women, but experts have suggested guidelines based on what we know about how sounds travel through the body

What can I do to reduce my hazardous noise exposure?

  • Protect yourself from loud noise:
    • You should use hearing protection  if you are exposed to loud noise.
    • For adults, noise that is 85 decibels (dBA) or more can be hazardous to your hearing. At this noise level, you would have to raise your voice to be heard by someone next to you. Most workplace noise levels are less than 95 dBA.
    • Your hearing protection won’t protect your developing baby from loud noise and too much noise can cause you stress. Stress can cause changes in your body that can affect your developing baby.
    • Ask your supervisor what the noise level is where you work.
  • Protect your developing baby from very loud noise:
    • Your hearing protection will not fully protect your developing baby’s ears from noise. Noise travels through the body to the womb. A baby’s ears are developed by about the 20th week of pregnancy. Babies start responding to sounds around the 24th week.
    • Sounds from outside the mother’s body are muffled inside the womb, but not completely silenced. Some experts think that pregnant women should not be routinely exposed to noise louder than 115 dBA. This is roughly as loud as a chainsaw. Areas that are louder than 115 dBA should be avoided during pregnancy, even if you are wearing hearing protection.
  • Noises that you can feel as a rumble or vibration are very low frequency sounds. These sounds travel through your body easily and can cause changes that could affect your developing baby. Avoid this kind of noise if possible.
  • Sudden loud noises (impact or impulse noise) that are loud enough for you to need hearing protection or that startle you should be avoided during pregnancy.
  • Sounds are stronger to your developing baby when your belly is closer to the source of the noise. Do not lean up against or put your body in contact with a source of noise or vibration.
  • It can be hard to avoid noise at work. Move as far away from the noise as possible or ask your employer if you can work in a quieter job during pregnancy.
  • Talk to your doctor about potential hazards at work. Make sure to mention that you are exposed to loud noise.

Where can I get more information?

Page last reviewed: February 2, 2022, 10:08 am