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Noise in the Workplace

I stumbled across this interesting blog post about coping with noise in the workplace. I can totally relate to what’s it says. I’m pretty sensitive when it comes to background noise and tend to program with headphones on and music blaring.

One comment in particular stood out, #44 by Alex Leonard (emphasis mine):

Take for example street level noise. Cars and buses driving by – general city noise – this comes out averaging 80-85dbA, which you can listen to continuously for about 8 hours without incurring any hearing damage. <snip>

The thing that really scared me was finding out that club music levels frequently reach 105-120dbA. You can listen to 120dbA for a maximum of about 15 mins before you start to incur hearing damage. Repeated exposure is a problem too. The hairs in your ears that vibrate back and forth in sympathy with the sound waves actually get knocked over with loud level exposure.

Thats a scary thought. I’ve read various articles of late saying my generation and younger are likely to suffer from hearing loss early due to listening to our MP3’s too loud. Although as this BBC article points out, they’ve been saying that since the Walkman came out in the early 1980’s!

Getting back to the original link, there are a ton of useful comments and the authors comment, highlighted in yellow half way down, gives a nice summary. The majority suggest using active noise reduction headphones. Up until a couple of weeks ago I was reluctant to even think about getting a pair. However a chap at work brought in his portable Sennheiser’s, which I believe were PXC300’s

They’re meant for use on planes but I tried them in our office. I had a small fan heater going and my laptop fan had kicked in and it all but cancelled the noise out. Its quite surreal. I know it sounds odd, but you hear it being quiet.

I also tried them in our server room and it was noticeably quieter. It managed to cut out all low frequency PSU fan hums and whirls. Some high pitched noises were still there, but they were subdued. The neat side effect is that it means you can hear the music clearer and don’t need the volume as high.

They work by having a microphone that records the incoming sound which then inverts it and sends that signal to the headphones. It does mean the mic part needs a couple of batteries, but thats not a big deal. The noise also needs to be repetitive, it doesn’t work for people talking.

A bit of reading up seems to show that Sennheiser’s are the best to go for. I don’t think I’d get the PXC250’s, which were very popular in the blog comments, or the PXC300’s since I prefer proper closed ear headphones. I’ve yet to settle on anything since Amazon’s range is a bit limited. A bit more searching is required me thinks!

Jay said,

March 21, 2006 @ 10:29 am

I currently own a pair of Sennheiser’s (HD 497) and I’ve had them for about 3 years now, and they’re fantastic quality. Another good thing aobut Sennheiser’s is the build quality; and that they are made up of so many pieces (the ear phones come off the head piece, the lead comes out of the each phone etc). I’ve sat on them a couple of times and they’ve still been fine.

Here’s the ones I’ve got:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00009QH7H/qid=1142936909/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/026-1982602-9726049

Paul said,

March 22, 2006 @ 10:54 am

Hmm nice. Are they active noise reduction ones? Do they block out background noise at all?

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