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Noise Control

3 simple ways to protect your hearing

"If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"

As hearing conservationists, we often use that first approach to analyze whether or not noise control is necessary. Say you have a loud generator hidden in a well sealed back room which no one enters, we don't worry about it.. unless you're the person going in to repair it!

All noise control techniques stem from 3 basic principles - Controlling noise from the source, the path and the receiver.

In Plain English, that means we can:

  1. Turn the noise down (Source)

  2. Step away (Path)

  3. Wear hearing protection (Receiver)

The Source

We always start by looking at the source, since this is supposedly the most effective way to reduce overall noise for everyone exposed. Say you're living in a two-storey house with wooden flooring, and have a LOUD washing machine that has a vigorous spin cycle. The rumbling during the spin cycle is annoying your neighbours living below, and you  really  want to get your washing sorted instead of waiting for them to get up/out of the house. The most efficient way would be to buy a new, quiet washing machine.  That tackles the noise issue from the source, and keeps everyone happy.

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The Path

But not everyone can afford to snap their fingers and purchase a brand new washing machine. It might also not be cost effective to go for a quiet, eco-friendly machine. 

So we look at the path. Since sound is traveling through air (in this case), we can build an enclosure around the washing machine to absorb some of the sound that passes through. That might not be very practical in the case of a washing machine though.

Because sound is vibration, another way to do it would be to put a thick rubber mat below the washing machine, to absorb any of the vibrations that are reverberating through the wooden floor. This might be one of the most cost effective, high-yield methods in this particular scenario.

The Receiver

So what happens if you are the poor person living with a noisy neighbour, with no control over the source? You can control the path by trying to pad the walls with acoustic dampening material, but would be less effective and much more costly to carry out on your end. It's well worth the money if you're living in that place long term, with a group of people who would benefit from the acoustic dampening. But if it's just one or two people, you might want to just solve the issue with hearing protection.

Hearing protection devices (HPDs) are considered the least effective solution because it only protects one person (the person wearing the HPD), usually only at a specific attenuation, and is only effective with the right fit and seal. However, it's usually the most cost effective solution and sometimes the only practical solution, especially if you don't have control over the noise source. 

If you do go for this solution, do consider getting high-fidelity acoustic filtered earplugs. These are designed so you aren't isolated from your environment,  which is important for your mental and physical wellbeing.

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Keep Learning

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Back to: Sound Health

If silence is gold and duct tape is silver, how much is your health worth?

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Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Why does noise-induced hearing loss cause loss of hearing in the high frequencies?

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Next Topic: The Law

How can I protect my staff or myself at my workplace? What does the law say about noise exposure?

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Next Topic: Personal Protection

Take control. Protect your ears from your environment. You deserve to hear for life.