Achieving effective communication in high-noise environments
By Rick Farrell
January 26, 2022 | 3:58 pm CST

Whether you are at a rock concert or on a construction site, you will find that the background noise makes communication very difficult. Furthermore, loud environments can hinder your thinking and make it impossible for you to form even a single sentence. However, there are several proven methods you can use to negate sounds from your surroundings and hear every bit of conversation. In this article, we’ll discuss those methods and help you establish effective communication even in high-noise environments.

What constitutes a high-noise environment?

First off, we measure the loudness of noise in decibels (dB), where 0dB denotes absolute silence. Now, noise in regular environments such as business offices or shopping malls sits at around 80dB to 90dB, which is a safety threshold. Every environment with a noise louder than 90dB is considered a high-noise one, and it can cause temporary or permanent damage to your hearing.

Generally speaking, even a person yelling in the background can cross the safety threshold and obstruct your conversation. However, artificial noises produced by tools, electric instruments, or vehicles can become completely deafening. On top of that, unlike shouting, these noises are continuous, which makes them an even greater barrier to conversation.

One example of an artificial high-noise environment is a stock car race, where noise reaches up to 130dB. Such a loud noise will inflict permanent damage to your ears, but also make dialogue impossible. Therefore, working in this type of environment without proper equipment and effective means of communication will ultimately ruin your health.

Another example of a high-noise occupation is a woodworker. Namely, woodworking facilities are notorious for their powerful, piercing sounds that can reach 140dB. Therefore, employees in such facilities need to wear protection earmuffs to save their hearing. However, the earmuffs along with loud noises create conditions where communication is difficult if not impossible.

Other loud environments include:
●    Construction sites
●    Factories
●    Military bases
●    Concerts
●    Sport venues
●    Airports

High-noise communication methods

As we’ve mentioned, there are more than a few approaches you can use to have an effective conversation in noisy settings. Some of those approaches are old-fashioned and obsolete, like writing a message on a whiteboard. On the other hand, some employ state-of-the-art technology to solve this problem.

The following are some methods used to overcome obstacles of high-noise communication. The fourth method listed is the most optimal.

1. Shouting
When we find ourselves in loud settings, our first instinct is to shout from the top of our lungs in the hope others will hear us. However, this method is far from ideal, as it will only make the noise louder. Furthermore, it’s a terrible way of conveying messages, as they will easily get misheard. Therefore, shouting should be used rarely, when none of the below options are available.

2. Writing a message on a whiteboard
First off, we should note that you don’t necessarily have to use a whiteboard. Namely, a chalkboard, a piece of paper, or even a tablet computer can also be used for this purpose. This method of communication might seem a bit outdated, but it can do the trick. However, the person you’re communicating with has to stand right next to you in order to see the message and reply.

One of the major benefits of this approach to high-noise communication is the fact that you can protect your hearing. Namely, visual communication allows all participants to cover their ears and thus avoid any hearing damage.

3. SMS or social media communication
Another way to convey the message visually is through SMS or social media messages. In this day and age, most people have a personal mobile phone, which makes this method widely available. Furthermore, unlike our previous suggestion, mobile messages can be used for long-distance communication. Finally, if all participants have a mobile plan or an available Wi-Fi network, this type of communication is free of charge.

One problem you might have with messaging is that your attention will be split. Namely, you will have to look away from whatever you are doing and stare at your device. Therefore, if your job demands undivided attention, this method is not for you. Furthermore, another issue that may occur in crowded settings is the lack of signal, which would make messaging impossible.

4. High-noise communication headsets
High-noise communication headsets are arguably the best method for communication in noisy settings. Thanks to their sophisticated design and innovative technology, you’ll be able to talk without any restrictions. On one hand, they have headphones with hearing protection that protect your ears and help you hear other people well. On the other hand, the microphone has noise-canceling technology that will register only your voice and exclude the background noise.

Another important aspect of this mode of communication is the fact that it doesn’t rely on external networks. Namely, these headsets are used alongside two-way radio, which makes them more flexible than phones. Finally, most high-noise communication headsets you can buy today can fit inside the protective headgear. Therefore, if you work in construction, this device might be perfect for you.

Unlike other methods we laid out in this article, specialized headsets allow continual communication without visuals. Furthermore, thanks to the hearing protection, they can also save your hearing and overall health.

Final thoughts

High-noise environments can damage both your health and productivity. Therefore, you’ll need an effective way to protect your hearing and achieve proper communication. Hopefully, one of the approaches we’ve outlined in this article will help you do just that.

Author: Rick Farrell, president, Farrell is North America’s foremost expert in improving manufacturing group communication, education, training and group hospitality processes. He has more than 40 years of group hospitality experience, most recently serving as president of for the last 18 years.  He has provided consulting services with the majority of Fortune 500 industrial corporations improving group communication dynamics of all types in manufacturing environments.

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