What is Sound Exposure Level?
Sound Exposure Level (SEL) is a measure of the total sound energy that a person or object is exposed to over a given period of time. It is expressed in decibels (dB) and is typically used to describe the noise exposure of individuals or communities over a period of hours or days. In the maritime industry, Sound Exposure Level refers to the potential effects of sounds made by humans, ship machinery, equipment, operations, and machines on marine biodiversity and species.
Ships can be very noisy environments, especially in the engine room, on the deck during cargo operations, or in crew accommodation areas close to the engine room. Seafarers who work in these areas can be exposed to high levels of noise that may cause hearing loss, tinnitus, or other health problems if they are not adequately protected.
In the maritime industry, the SEL is typically used to determine compliance with international noise exposure standards, such as the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Code on noise levels on board ships, which sets maximum allowable noise levels for different areas of the ship and different times of the day. The SEL value is calculated by measuring the noise level over a period of time and integrating the sound pressure level over that time period.
To control noise exposure in the maritime industry, ships are required to have noise control measures, such as the use of noise-absorbing materials, noise barriers, or noise-reducing equipment. In addition, seafarers are required to wear personal protective equipment, such as earplugs or earmuffs, to reduce their exposure to noise. Regular noise level measurements and assessments of the SEL are also conducted to ensure compliance with the noise exposure standards.
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