In all likelihood, readers of this series have encountered the decibel scale many times. It may have been used in the specifications of new machinery or personal electronic devices. Some may be able to intuit the practical application of these values, but it is likely that many lack knowledge of the true meaning and implications of the decibel scale.
This installment of the “Occupational Soundscapes” series introduces the decibel (dB) and its relevance to occupational noise assessment and hearing conservation. Those with no exposure to the scale and those that have a functional understanding, but lack foundational knowledge, benefit from understanding its mathematical basis. The characteristics of sound to which it is most-often applied is also presented to continue developing the knowledge required to effectively support a hearing loss prevention program (HLPP).
A rudimentary understanding of the physics of sound and the basic functions of the human ear is necessary to appreciate the significance of test results, exposure limits, and other elements of a hearing loss prevention program (HLPP). Without this background, data gathered in support of hearing conservation have little meaning and effective protections cannot be developed and implemented.
This installment of the “Occupational Soundscapes” series provides readers an introduction to the generation and propagation of sound and the structure and function of the human ear; it is not an exhaustive treatise on either subject. Rather, it aims to provide a foundation of knowledge – a refresher, for many – on which future installments of the series build, without burdening readers with extraneous or potentially confusing detail.
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