The effects of noise and vibration on the human body havebeen researched since the early 20th century and have long beenknown to have a detrimental effect after prolonged exposure (Braugh).The negative effects of noise can be found not only in those who work in noisyenvironments, but also those who live near a place that generates a lot ofunwanted sound, such as an airport. Even pregnant women and hospital workersmust be careful about noise level and the type of damage it can do to fetusesand newborn infants (Committee on Environmental Health). The articles I will be using for this paperfocus on general occupationally-acquired noise-induced hearing loss, generaloccupational vibration hazards, and the potential risks to fetuses and infantswho are exposed to loud noise in utero and after born, with a special emphasison infants who are put in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) and IEC(Individualized Environmental Care) and how the noise levels present caninhibit growth and recovery. The purpose of this paper is to provide a lightoverview of these articles and to propose ways to reduce noise and vibrationrelated injuries. The articles chosen all deal with the prevalence ofinjury due to overexposure to noise and vibration and how many of the injuriesare preventable. The manufacturing and construction sectors have the highestrisk of causing hand-arm vibration (HAV), whole-body vibration (WBV) andoccupational noise-induced hearing loss (ONIHL).
This is due to the amount ofmachinery in use and the vibrations caused by general friction, combustion,released air, striking, and high frequency rotations. These vibrations can beextremely harmful to hands and arms over long periods of time and can causepermanent nerve damage and even amputation of fingertips in severe cases (Braugh). These vibrationsalso often produce loud noises which can damage parts of your inner ear, mostfrequently the cochlea (Apps and Kurmis). The fact that these injuries can take years to decades tomanifest makes the problem much worse in that once symptoms start toconsistently show, it’s often too late to reverse the damage. Because of thisand a lack of public awareness, the National Institute for Occupational Safetyand Health (NIOSH) estimates that 1 million or more workers may be at risk forHAV or WBV (Braugh).To help try to prevent hearing loss, the Washington Industrial Safety andHealth Act (WISHA) sets a maximum exposure limit to no more than 85 dB over an8-hour shift (Apps and Kurmis).Outsideof manufacturing and construction, it has been found that fetuses can besensitive to extrauterine noises, and that babies who are placed into the NICU canbe negatively affected by the sounds that are normal to NICU operation.
In fourdifferent studies, it has been shown that there is a slightly increased risk ofshortened gestation (<37 weeks) for women who are exposed to 80 dB for an 8hour shift. Other studies, however, have not found any correlation between loudnoise and premature births. It has been consistently shown, however, thatnoises inside an incubator can be magnified, causing minor damage to thecochlea and negatively impacting mood and sleep, which in turn can lengthenrecovery time. For example, tapping on an incubator with a finger can produce80 dBs of noise (Committee on Environmental Health). This is equivalentto an alarm clock or very loud traffic (Apps and Kurmis).
Closing the solidplastic porthole can produce 100 dB of noise (Committee on Environmental Health), which is equivalentto a jack hammer at 10m away (Apps and Kurmis). This can result inpermanent hearing loss after prolonged exposure, as can dropping the head ofthe mattress which can produce 120 dB of sound (Committee on Environmental Health). This is the equivalent of a car hornat 1m away, or a jet taking off 60m away (Braugh).Whentaken away from these loud noises and put into an IEC, the infants neededsignificantly fewer days on a ventilator and oxygen administration. Studieshave also shown that when comparing EEGs of IEC infants and full-term infants,there were no significant variations.
This seems to suggest that development ofinfants in the IEC is more closely related to development within the womb (Committee on Environmental Health). For the issues of noise and vibration hazards, there seemto be fairly easy ways to avoid serious injury, starting with generalawareness. Being aware of your exposure to vibration and noise can start toinfluence behavior and lead to changes in harmful habits.
Employees can dothings such as keep their tools clean and better maintained to reduce HAV andtake more breaks, or switch out with another worker (Braugh). They can also makesure to wear the proper PPE and figure out what sound levels are dangerous tothe human ear (Apps and Kurmis). Nurses in the NICU can monitor theirnoise levels while in the unit and it has been shown that covering theincubators with a blanket can greatly reduce the amount of noise getting in tothe infants (Committee on Environmental Health). These steps couldhelp protect millions of people every year from injuries related to noise andvibrations.