I've been spending a lot of time at our datacenter recently. Unlike at WWU, we colo at one of the large providers so I'm getting to interact with a datacenter vastly larger than the ones I've played with in the past. This is cool in many ways (this is a multi megawatt facility!) but there are some downsides.


I've known for years that datacenters can get very loud. When WWU picked up our first HP bladerack, the whine that produced was audible in the hallway outside the room. And this is with sound-proofing, mind. It was about then that I brought my shooting muffs to work for when I'd be in there for any length of time.

This facility? Worse. Two rows behind our racks are five racks full of dual power-supply servers with only one power cable each, which means five racks of servers doing their alarm beep continually for months (possibly years) on end. This is in addition to the usual hum of air-handlers and cooling fans in every rack.

It's loud in here. Loud enough that two people talking need to raise their voices, which puts it above 70dB. This is right close to the OSHA hearing-protection-required levels. And for a good reason.

I'm pretty sure my tinnitus has gotten a bit worse since I've been working here.

I haven't always been able to use my muffs when working, since talking to other people is problematic when I have them. The facility does offer softies for hearing protection, but they're only so useful. A couple of my recent 8 hour stints have been with help, so there was much shouting back and forth as we do things. There will be more, longer visits in the near future too, so I need to plan for that as well.

Hearing loss from long term exposure to loud white noise and blood-loss from sharp bits of equipment. Two hazards to what it is that we do.


Well, I haven't made a "blood sacrifice" to the spirits of computing in a long while, but my tinnitus is a constant companion. During allergy season, which is really just ending in Houston for me, it gets really bad. Also, when there are pressure changes it's usually worse. Frankly, I'm surprised that more infrastructure/network geeks don't complain about it.
I wish I could blame my hearing loss on rock concerts, but, sadly, it's all from server farms. *sigh*

I used to work construction around equipment that was quite loud. We used Western Safety Active Noise Canceling Muffs on our Hard Hats (PN 10061279). They also make the same thing for use without a hard hat (PN 10061278. They're pricey, but work very well, let speech through, and are quite durable. Might not be right for you, but there are options available.

Products page:

I often have used my noise cancelling headphones in a data center, helps cut out a lot of the noise.

The interesting thing is that when wearing them or just covering my ears, I can hear other people *better* than I can without them. Even though they are softer, the noise is cut down more than their voice is.

Yup the idea behind ear plugs that aren't those dumb foam ones are to cut out the damaging frequencies rather than all noise.

Frequenting a lot of loud music gigs I wear these, and found them to also help in datacentres. Etymotic ER-20 -

They're reusable and comfortable to wear for long periods (after I while I would actually forget that I had them in). I think the only next step up is having custom ones made to suit your particular ear.

Sacrifice your sanity to save your hearing? Tough call.