Investigation of Noise Exposure in Churches

Principal investigator: Glen Green

Co-Investigator: Richard (Rick) Neitzel

Source of funding: None

Description: The United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published recommended limits for occupational noise exposure. Short-term noise exposure should be limited total level no greater than 85 A-weighted decibels (dBA) for an 8-hour average, equivalent to 2 hours at 91 dBA, to prevent irreversible damages to inner ear hair cells [1]. In churches, loud noise is commonly encountered. Choir singing, sermons, and the use of church bells, loud speakers, and band performances contribute to potential noise exposure above the NIOSH recommended limits [2]. The association between noise-induced hearing loss and adverse health outcomes is well established [3, 4]. In children, noise exposure is also associated with poor academic performance and cognitive skills [5, 6]. As churches are attended by families, young children are susceptible to significant noise exposure from an early age. Studies on noise levels in American churches are limited to anecdotal evidence and small observational studies. The extent of noise-induced hearing loss in priests, choir members, and church attendees is also not characterized. This project aims to measure noise levels and assess noise exposure in the churches of Ann Arbor and its surrounding communities. We will obtain area sound measurements during worship using noise dosimeters. We do not plan to collect human subjects’ data for the current project. Findings from this study have public health implications and potential for future intervention to reduce unsafe noise exposure in churches.

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  2. Silva LF and Cabral R. Noise exposure levels of priests and worshippers in protestant churches. Int J Occup Saf Ergon. 2011; 17(1):79-86. 
  3. McGill TJ and Schuknecht HF. Human cochlear changes in noise induced hearing loss. Laryngoscope. Sep 1976; 86(9):1293-1302.
  4. Huddle et. al. The economic impact of adult hearing loss: A systematic review. JAMA Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. Oct 2017;143(10):1040-1048. 
  5. Harrison RV. The prevention of noise induced hearing loss in children. Int J Pediatr. Dec 2012;473541
  6. Gupta et. al. Noise Pollution and Impact on Children Health. Indian J Pediatr. Apr 2018; 85(4):300-306.