Come Hear Uncle John’s Band (Don’t Forget The Earplugs)

Factory worker applying ear protection

It’s another sold-out show for this headlining band known for their long, improvisational jam sessions. Filling arenas every night during their recent U.S. tour, Uncle John and his bandmates have been playing covers of rock classics with a theme on noise exposure. After years on the road, it seems some of the members are a little hard of hearing. Now, with a touch of grey in their hair, they want to get the word out on hearing conservation. Here’s a look at some of the songs in their setlist with each one followed by some “sound” information.

Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (AC/DC): “To me it makes good, good sense” but depending on the volume, it could be argued that loud music, of any genre, can be noise pollution which is defined as any disturbing or unwanted noise that’s annoying and harmful to humans or wildlife.

Welcome to the Jungle (Guns N’ Roses): Like a rain forest cacophony, noise in an occupational setting is comprised of 3 basic types: wide band (distributed across a broad range of frequencies like an airplane), narrow band (distributed across a narrow range of frequencies like a circular saw), and impulse (like the pounding of a hammer). Engineering controls such as the installation of sound barriers or panels, noise isolating enclosures, and elimination or replacement of noise-generating processes are the most effective means to mitigate noise hazards.  Administrative controls such as employee rotation are secondary.

Good Vibrations (The Beach Boys): Sound is an acoustic pressure wave that reaches the eardrum (tympanic membrane) causing it to vibrate with the vibrations amplified by the 3 middle ear bones or ossicles. The vibrations are then transmitted as wave energy through the fluid in the inner ear (cochlea). “Excitations” of the ciliated nerve cells in the inner ear activate the auditory nerve transmitting information to the brain that is interpreted as loudness and pitch. Prolonged exposure to loud noise irreversibly damages the hair cells.

Communication Breakdown (Led Zeppelin): Sound is measured in decibels (dB) with normal conversation measured around 60 dB and a loud rock concert around 120 decibels. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that hearing protection be worn whenever noise levels exceed 85 dBA regardless of duration. The (A) in the decibel abbreviation denotes a frequency weighting measurement intended to account for the range of frequencies perceived by the human ear.

Time (Pink Floyd): How sad to have “missed the starting gun” because of hearing impairment. Time, as it relates to noise exposure, is an important factor affecting hearing loss as are distance from a noise source and its intensity. OSHA uses an exchange rate of 5 dBA in reference to their 8-hour permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 90 dBA. Thus, when the noise level is increased by 5 dBA, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.  More conservatively, NIOSH recommends an exchange rate of 3 dBA and a PEL of 85 dBA.

Shout It Out Loud (Kiss): You likely need a Hearing Conservation Program (HCP), in writing, if you have to “shout it, shout it, shout it out loud” on the shop floor to compensate for the disturbing din. Performing a noise study with a sound level meter and noise dosimeter is key to determining the need for the program based on ambient and personal noise exposure levels.             

Can’t You Hear Me Knocking (The Rolling Stones): Employees exposed to a time-weighted average exposure of 85 dBA or higher must be included in a Hearing Conservation Program. Affected employees need to undergo audiometric testing within six months of initial exposure to serve as a baseline and annually thereafter. Additionally, OSHA requires annual training for employees in the HCP.   

Industrial Disease (Dire Straits): “Goodness me, could this be Industrial Disease?” Straight from the OSHA standard on the recording criteria for cases involving occupational hearing loss, 1904.10,“If an employee's hearing test (audiogram) reveals that the employee has experienced a work-related Standard Threshold Shift (STS) in hearing in one or both ears, and the employee's total hearing level is 25 decibels (dB) or more above audiometric zero (averaged at 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz) in the same ear(s) as the STS, you must record the case on the OSHA 300 Log.”

In their encore, they let it all out with Shout by Tears For Fears with the message that hearing loss is one of the things we can do without. They close the show with Simon & Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence

For more information on OSHA related requirements, check out these MEMIC Safety Net blogs.