Dangerous noise levels in data centers


© Ariel da Silva Parreira - Sxc.hu

People who work in train stations, airports, sports stadiums, and nightclubs are often aware of the dangers noise in their occupational environment may pose to their hearing. A report in TechRepublic highlights the dangers of high-level noise in an unexpected environment, data centers.

With the constant humming of air-conditioners and servers, data centers may create noise of 70 dBA to a high of 79 dBA, according to the report. Although these levels are below the allowable exposure threshold stipulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), i.e. 85 dBA permissible exposure limit for 16 hours, there are practically no studies on the risks of long-term exposure at slightly lower levels. Moreover, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has a recommended exposure limit at the same threshold, but says exposure should be limited to just 8 hours.

One of the reasons for concern cited in the article is that hearing loss is cumulative. Hearing conditions with a medical origin can be improved by removing the underlying cause, but this is not the case for damage related to prolonged exposure. According to a 2009 study in the Journal of Neuroscience (SG Kujawa and MC Liberman), mentioned in the report, some damage is undetectable using current test methods, and damage is not seen until weeks or months after the exposure. Basically it is thought that noise can produce subclinical damage that goes undetected and progresses unnoticed.

Since noise-related hearing loss is preventable, the article suggests that workers in data centers consider using noise-cancelling headphones with active noise control technology, for instance.

Source: TechRepublic US