The UK’s most noisy jobs

NoisiestJobsNew research by a noise management firm has identified teaching, factory and farm work as amongst the most noisy jobs in the UK, with millions of working people being exposed to dangerous decibels in the workplace.

Sound experts at the company, Echo Barrier, identified 10 occupations where noise poses a serious health problem.

Top of the list were airport ground staff who direct jet engines in landing and take-off and are subjected to noise levels of up to 140 decibels (dB), more than 1000 times the sound energy at the noisiest of music events.


The remaining nine jobs and estimated noise levels were:

  • Formula One drivers — 135dB
  • Construction workers — the loudest tool, the hammer drill, registers 120dB
  • Nightclub workers — 115dB
  • Rock stars — 110dB
  • Factory and farm workers — 105dB
  • Commuter music — 85dB (although not a job, listening to loud music on headphones while travelling to and from work can be hazardous to health)
  • Classical musicians — 95dB
  • Motorcycle courier – 90dB
  • Nursery worker or teacher — 85dB.


Peter Wilson, technical director at Echo Barrier, said, “Working for years in a noisy job significantly increases the risk of serious hearing difficulties. Workers can lessen the risk by protecting ears with earplugs or other hearing protection devices at all times but employers need to be aware of how damaging noise pollution can be — and not just for their employees. Noise pollution can also have a devastating effect on people who come into contact with a noisy place of work such as a building site. It can cause headaches, high stress levels, tinnitus, hearing loss, depression and insomnia.”

Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) may result when workers are habitually subjected to excessive noise exposure at their place of work.

Hearing can be damaged by continuous noise or small bursts of high-energy noise. However, it is not only in industrial environments that employees can be exposed to excessive noise levels.

The extent of hearing damage resulting from excessive exposure is dependent on factors such as the:

  • Level of noise
  • Duration of exposure to the noise
  • Individual’s susceptibility to NIHL.

Deafness usually occurs over many years, and because of the gradual onset of NIHL, the individual may or may not realise that he or she is becoming deaf. There are, however, some sudden noises — e.g. explosions, gunfire and other very high level impulsive noise sources sometimes found in heavy industry environments, which can cause immediate hearing damage to the unprotected ear.

Identifying Noise-induced Hearing Loss

Audiometric testing is a procedure for determining the hearing levels, or audibility thresholds, of the ear in terms of the person’s response to calibrated signal levels presented to the ear under closely controlled conditions. Hearing loss caused through exposure to noise usually displays certain characteristic features, e.g. high frequency loss, often with a pronounced “notch” shape in the audiogram.

NoisiestJobs-2There is particular benefit to the organisation in the audiometric testing of new employees to determine their hearing levels before employment. A programme of long-term, regular audiometric testing and screening of employees’ hearing can provide a useful indication of which employees are most susceptible to NIHL, although those detected will already have incurred some measurable hearing loss before their susceptibility becomes apparent. The main benefit of a regular audiometric testing programme is to provide early warning for those employees showing early signs of hearing loss, so that they are able to seek medical advice and, if appropriate, take additional measures to protect their hearing against future noise exposure.

The specified criterion level, called the lower exposure action level in the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, represents the daily noise exposure levels at which the majority of persons will not incur significant NIHL in the course of a lifetime’s employment. However, because of the variation in individual susceptibility to NIHL, there are some persons who remain at risk of hearing damage through daily exposure at levels lower than the criterion levels. It is therefore advisable for employers to make every effort to reduce occupational noise exposure levels to the lowest reasonably practicable level.

Action Levels of Exposure

Lower Exposure Action Value

  • a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 80dB (A-weighted)
  • a peak sound pressure of 135dB (C-weighted)

Upper Exposure Action Value

  • a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 85dB (A-weighted)
  • a peak sound pressure of 137dB (C-weighted)

Exposure Limit Value

  • a daily or weekly personal noise exposure of 87dB (A-weighted)
  • a peak sound pressure of 140dB (C-weighted)

Exposure limit values are to take into account any hearing protection worn by the employee.


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