US Virgin Islands Hotel & Tourism Association

fig3What’s the difference between noise and sound? The answer may surprise you: noise is unwanted sound. Unwanted sound exists in almost every workplace, but how do you know if the noise level at your workplace is too loud and doing damage? Over twenty-two million workers are exposed to potentially damaging levels of noise every year and an estimated $242 million is spent annually on workers’ compensation for hearing loss disability.

The human ear is an amazing organ! Sound waves enter the outer ear and impact the ear drum which transmits vibrations to the middle ear. In the middle ear, there are three tiny bones that amplify and transmit the vibrations to the inner ear. Inside the inner ear there are microscopic hairs which move with the vibrations and convert them into nerve impulses – those nerve impulses are the sounds (or noises) that we hear. Sadly, loud noises destroy those microscopic hairs in the inner ear which causes hearing loss. The louder the noise and the longer the exposure, the more hearing loss can occur. Hearing loss is permanent; but it is also preventable.

Here is a little self-check you can perform to see if you are exposed to too much noise during your day: before exiting your car in the morning, turn the car radio down until you can just hear it. At the end of the day when you are preparing to depart, listen carefully to notice if you can still hear the radio clearly without adjusting the volume. If you can’t hear it, that is a good indication that you have been exposed to too much noise during your day.

So, how loud is too loud? OSHA mandates that employers with workers exposed to average noise levels at and above 85 dBA over an 8-hour work shift implement a Hearing Conservation Program. For further (free) assistance with program development and/or (free) noise monitoring please request our FREE services by calling us at 340-693-1146 or via email at

UVICELL Safety in Paradise is here to help small and medium-sized employers by providing free OSHA On-Site Consultation Services, program development and occupational training. We look forward to helping you meet your company’s safety and health needs! To learn more about this free and confidential safety and health program or to request our services online, visit