Essay

The Sounds of Silence

Article by Chris Ricard

As we venture out into our favorite creek or river, we love the fact that we are getting out in the outdoors and enjoying its beauty and splendor. But have your ever thought about the ramification of this to your health; specifically your hearing health ? 

I am a mechanical engineer in the wood products industry, and one of the things we are very conscious of is sound that emanates from equipment while in operation. Readings are taken on workspaces to ensure that employees have the proper hearing protection for the area. In most cases hearing protection in the form of earplugs or earmuffs is mandatory. 

OSHA regulations state that the threshold for hearing protection requirements is “whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels.”  There is a scale that shows daily permissible exposure and duration. 

Duration (hours)Decibel Level
890
692
495
397
2100
1.5102
1105
0.5110
0.25 or less115
OSHA Permissible Noise Exposures

I was recently fishing a local creek in my area and was working a very nice “boulder garden” when I noticed that I could not hear my wife as she stood there waving at me. (She wanted me to see the fish she just caught ). On my way back to where I was fishing,  I pulled out my phone and checked the decibel level with an app.  

Chris Ricard - Sounds of Silence - Decibel Meter
Decibel level 8′ from small falls

At only eight feet away I was amazed by how loud it was. 77 decibels is high for being at that distance! And I was fishing right beside the falls, which I did not consider particularly tall. 

Chris Ricard - Sounds of Silence - Small Falls

Taking precautions is not unusual to anglers. I wear a hat when I fish to protect my head from the sun and cold. I wear clothing appropriate to the climate to protect myself from the elements. I wear safety or polarized glasses to protect from a fly going into my eye. (Had a friend have this happen, but that’s another story!)

However until now, I have never thought about having to protect my ears from the ambient noise of the waters in which I am fishing. But after this experience, I am thinking that I might need to…


Chris Ricard grew up in the interior region of British Columbia and has been fly fishing since he was very young. Currently living in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, and recently taking up Tenkara, he is now spending his available time exploring the beautiful creeks and rivers in the state.

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