Noise At Work

Date: 14.07.2016     Last updated: 12.04.2019 at 14.19
Controlling the exposure to noise at work which can be harmful to one's hearing. This exposure maybe caused by loudness, proximity and/or the duration of exposure.

Whatever the state of your hearing, the message is the same: you must look after your ears. If you are a musician or work with music or sound this is particularly important, as they are the most important tools of the trade and your hearing health is vital to your quality of life.

What Can Go Wrong?

  • Loud noise can have long term effects on hearing, from a variety of sources for example, headphones, speakers and the local environment e.g. explosions, events, music etc.
  • Exposure to this loud noise can cause permanent deafness or other forms of hearing damage such as tinnitus (a ‘ringing’ in the ear) or other impairments, which can also occur in combination with hearing loss.
  • Acoustic shock (sudden exposure to very loud noise) may cause damage to hearing. 

Legal/BBC Requirements

  • The Control of Noise at Work Act 2005 requires employers to ensure that their employees are protected from exposure to excessive noise levels that could have a detrimental effect upon their hearing.

Control Measures

General Controls

  • Identify where there may be a risk from noise and who is likely to be affected.
  • Consider what action needs to be taken to eliminate or reduce the noise level & implement it.
  • Compare the level of exposure relative to the time exposed (see Daily Noise Exposure Calculator chart opposite).
  • Reduce & keep to a minimum the amount of time exposed to the noise.
  • Reduce noise levels using distance so teams should position themselves away from loud noise.
  • Ensure hearing protection is provided if assigning staff to foreseeably noisy places or equipment.
  • Use hearing protection that is specific to the environment, particularly when mandatory protection is required (eg in industrial environments).
  • Make a record of what is done & review this regularly.
  • Make sure hearing protection is replaced if it becomes damaged or worn out.
  • Headphones should be limited to 93db when using for up to four hours continually.
  • Use limited headphones & limit to 88dB, if using for more than 4 hours a day or 20 hours a week.
  • Consider using the HDM Pro headphones, a new type of intelligent unit that monitors your listening experience. More information is available on BBC Procurement's Professional Audio Equipment page (see link).
  • The use of unlimited headphones must be strictly controlled and monitored. A risk assessment is required for the job role/person where it is identified that using unlimited headphones is required; as well as training and health surveillance (see controls below)
  • Take regular breaks & take them somewhere quiet if using headphones for prolonged periods.
  • Consider the Noise Awareness Training course if routinely exposed to noise via headphones.
  • Identify any employees who need to be provided with health surveillance - audiometry via Occupational Health - and whether any are at particular risk.
  • Acoustic shock procedure starting with urgent referral to Occupational Health to be used in event of sudden very loud unplanned exposure. 

Acute Exposure / Acoustic Shock

It is important to take appropriate action, following an episode of acute noise exposure. Following any sudden, unexpected loud noise exposure where there may be risk of damage to hearing, please do the following:

  • Injured party to inform manager/supervisor
  • Equipment to be isolated and retained for inspection
  • Report incident on myRisks tools
  • Contact the BBC Occupational Health Service and arrange for urgent (ideally within 36 hours) post exposure hearing test -

An occupational health nurse will conduct a hearing test comprising of a review of the persons medical and hearing history, an ear examination, an audiometric test, possible referral to the persons own doctor and follow up tests should be arranged to be at interval of one week and then one month or as specified by a BBC occupational health nurse.

  • Reserve any equipment for investigation and prevent others using until it has been fully checked by competent person
  • Reassess the noise control measures for the activity and check fault has been rectified to prevent further occurrences

Division Specific Issues


Monitor Earpieces

Each player/musician should have an individual volume control to limit the monitor output from the mixing desk. Any audio that is to be put into musicians’ ears should be checked for the correct volume   before sound transmission.  Any changes to pre-recorded elements should be pre communicated fully, so that sound technicians are able to check output levels before they are used. 

The BBC has produced three noise guides for musicians playing acoustic instruments and singers working with orchestras. They can also be used as a reference tool for ensemble and venue managers, sound engineers and teachers. They can be downloaded from the useful documents links on the right hand side of this page. They are:

  • Musicians' guide to noise and hearing: Part I - full guide.
  • Musicians' guide to noise and hearing: Part II - Toolkit for managers. (This should be read in conjunction with the text of the Noise at Work Regulations 2005 and Sound Advice.)
  • Musicians' guide to noise and hearing - musicians' summary.

FAQs/Did You Know?

  • If you have to shout to make yourself heard at approximately 2 metres, you need to make additional effort to lower your exposure (eg reduce how long you stay thereor use hearing protection).
  • Hearing protection, such as ear plugs and ear defenders, are available from the BBC Safety Equipment Stores.
  • You might just notice a 3 dB change in noise level, because of the way our ears work. However, every 3 dB doubles the noise exposure, so what might seem like small differences in the numbers can be quite significant.
  • The use in the workplace of personal headphones or ear pieces (ie those supplied with mp3 players) won’t be of the appropriate quality and won’t be noise limited.
  • You can have you hearing tested by Occupational Health if noise exposure is considered excessive. Please speak to your line manager in the first instance.

Sound samples and references

Sample 1 - Brahms' 4th Symphony, as it should sound (2')

Sample 2 - As it would sound with age-related hearing loss (2')

Sample 3 - As it would sound with noise-induced hearing loss (2')

Tinnitus Discussion from Radio 3's 'Music Matters' programme (10')

The Pleasure Of Noise.

 Safety Guides - Quick Links

About this site

This site describes what the BBC does in relation to managing its health, safety and security risks and is intended for those who work directly for the BBC.

It is not intended to provide instruction or guidance on how third parties should manage their risks. The BBC cannot be held liable for how this information is interpreted or used by third parties, nor provide any assurance that adopting it would provide any measure of legal compliance. More information.

Links: Some links on this site are only accessible when connected to the BBC network