Noise & Hearing Conservation

Hearing Conservation Program

Noise is defined as unwanted sound and exposure to loud and prolonged noise can damage hearing. Employees who work in areas where high noise levels (more than 85 decibels averaged over eight hours) exist must be enrolled in the Princeton University Hearing Conservation Program. The purpose of the program is to prevent noise-induced hearing loss caused by exposure to these conditions.

Employees in the program must receive training from EHS every year and are also required to obtain a baseline and annual hearing test at Employee Health. Employees may also be required to wear hearing protection under certain conditions or in specific environments where loud noise is present.  See the Hearing Protection page for more information on the different types of hearing protection devices.

OSHA’s Noise Standard

The federal Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has a permissible exposure limit for noise that is an 8-hour time-weighted average (sound levels averaged over an 8 hour day) of 90 decibels (dB) and an action level of 85 dB. A healthy person exposed below these levels, day after day, is unlikely to experience noise-induced hearing loss.  The standard also states that no individual may be exposed to noise levels above 115 dB at any time.

Nuisance Noise

Noise levels below 85 dB (averaged over 8 hours) are considered nuisance noise. While nuisance noise does not generally cause injury directly, in some instances it may mask sounds indicative of other developing hazards and may be a source of annoyance. While EHS may take measurements or provide other consultative services in instances of nuisance noise, it is not the purpose of the Hearing Conservation Program to deal with such situations.

If you feel that your noise exposure may exceed any of these levels, contact EHS to conduct an evaluation.


Shaundree Davis
Senior Program Manager