Work-related noise

Did you know that hearing damage can be a cause of long-lasting exposure for loud noise, and short-lasting peak values with extremely high noise? Hearing loss is chronic condition.

Noise can be defined as unwanted sound and can be separated in two types:

  • Harmful sound from noisy surroundings >80 db (A) and peak values > 130 dB (C).
  • Irritating sound from ventilation systems, laptop fan, traffic etc..

Harmful Noise
Hearing loss occurs when noise damages the cochlea in the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noise levels above 80-85 dB, or very high short-term sound impulses, can cause permanent hearing damage/loss. Examples of impulse sounds include explosions, impact sounds, gunshots, nail guns, and similar noises with peak values above 130 dB. Prolonged exposure to loud noise or very high short-term sound impulses can both cause permanent hearing damage. Noise with high-pitched, high-frequency sounds is most harmful to the hearing.

In Norway, in 2019, a total of 235,000 employees were exposed to harmful noise in their work environment, and noise-induced injuries are at the top of the list of occupational injuries reported to the Labour Inspection Authority. Therefore, preventive measures are crucial. Many companies are now focusing on preventive measures, and employees are better at using hearing protection correctly.

  • Technical measures such as shielding and enclosing the noise source, or removing or replacing the noise source if possible.
  • Clear marking of noise zones based on approved noise measurements.
  • Organizational measures such as job rotation, training, and safe job analyses (SJA).

In addition, it is important for companies to have an overview of employees exposed to noise and to include them in targeted health checks with the occupational health services to assess hearing over time. This way, it is possible to prevent further deterioration of already existing hearing loss.

What about irritating noise?
Noise is not only harmful sound but can also be irritating and annoying. Many people experience this type of noise in open office landscapes, and 55-60% of office workers in Norway work in open offices. Common sources of noise can be ventilation systems, traffic outside the office, or employees having Teams meetings or discussions with colleagues in the open space. For the brain, it can be difficult to distinguish between this type of noise and important sounds that one should pay attention to, and employees can therefore become unfocused. In addition, it is known that this type of noise can lead to lower job satisfaction, reduced performance, and decreased productivity and motivation.

Therefore, it is important to have preventive measures such as noise-absorbing elements, accessible and functioning meeting rooms, and organizing employees according to tasks. In addition, it is advisable to have good guidelines for working in an open office landscape:

  • Show consideration and tolerance for each other and speak in a low voice.
  • Use quiet rooms or social areas for discussions.
  • Use meeting rooms for planned Teams meetings.
  • Set mobile phones and notifications on silent/low volume.
  • If you are disturbed, communicate in a respectful manner.

If you want to learn more about noise, you can sign up for the webinar hosted by Aker Care on November 21st. More information can be found here.


Statens Arbeidsmiljøinstitutt.