Equivalent Sound Exposure Level

Last Updated: June 12, 2018

Definition - What does Equivalent Sound Exposure Level mean?

An equivalent sound exposure level is a measure of the level of sound a worker is exposed to over the course of an 8-hour work day. The equivalent sound exposure level is used to express this noise exposure when the worker is not subject to continuous noise, but instead is exposed to fluctuating sound levels throughout the day. A formula is used to determine the equivalent sound exposure level (SEL) based of the various measurements of sound levels taken throughout the specified measurement period. The equivalent sound exposure level may also be referred to as the sound exposure level.

WorkplaceTesting explains Equivalent Sound Exposure Level

Workplace hearing conservation programs include monitoring requirements. This monitoring is intended to determine whether or not a worker is exposed to levels of sound in the workplace that may cause hearing damage. Once an initial finding is made that sound levels in a workplace exceed a minimum threshhold, regular sound monitoring is required.

If a workplace is subject to continuous noise at a consistent level, determining the sound exposure level is a relatively simple process. However, many workplaces are subject to impulsive or intermittent noises. To accurately determine the noise exposure levels in these work environments, a formula based on the various sound levels recorded throughout the monitoring period is used. The resulting value is the worker's equivalent sound exposure level.

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