NIOSH
Hearing Loss Simulator

   

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a useful software package for demonstrating the effects of noise-induced hearing loss. The NIOSH Hearing Loss Simulator runs on a Windows-based PC with sound capabilities, and allows the user to select different durations and levels of noise exposure while "hearing" the effects on a variety of foreground and background sounds.

  Free Download
 
  Download from NIOSH website: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/products/product47.htm

If you are unable to download, you can request a CD from Bob Randolph at NIOSH (rrandolph@cdc.gov)

What it does

The simulator displays a "control panel" for playing sounds while adjusting the simulated effects of noise and aging. The screenshot below shows the most common functions. A simulated individual's age (in years) can be entered along with the years of exposure to noise (in A-weighted decibels). The effects are shown visually on the frequency band control panel and sound level display screen while the user listens to playback sounds.

 

Here are just two of the many scenarios the simulator can produce:

No hearing loss    
  A typical young individual who has had no significant noise exposure would have good hearing at all frequencies.

Click here for the simulator's version of what they would hear.


Typical noise-induced hearing loss
   
  A 55 year-old worker who has been exposed to a moderate level of noise (95 A-weighted decibels) over their 25-year career would typically show a hearing loss, mainly in the high frequencies (3000 Hz and up) that are important for understanding speech and enjoying music.

Click here for the simulator's version of what they would hear.

How these samples sound to you is affected by your own hearing, of course. The main thing is to hear the difference that noise exposure makes.

Prevention

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. The best way is to eliminate the sources of noise or minimize the time you spend with them. If you must be around noise, wear earmuffs, earplugs, or some other hearing protector.

Useful links:

bulletNIOSH Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention topic page
bulletNIOSH Mining Health and Safety program (the developers of the simulator)
bulletMSHA Noise Rule single-source page
bulletOSHA Noise and Hearing Conservation topic page