OSHA, Hearing Conservation, And You

OSHA, Hearing Conservation, And You

What is Occupational Noise and Why DOES IT MATTER?

Noise is one of the most prevalent occupational health problems that heavy workforces face today. Exposure to high levels of noise can cause hearing loss and may cause other harmful health effects. These harmful effects may be temporary or permanent. In addition, loud noises can generate physical and psychological stress, reduce productivity, and increase the chances of workplace accidents.

When Monitoring is Required

The OSHA hearing conservation program requires employers to monitor noise exposure levels in a way that accurately identifies employees exposed to noise at or above 85 decibels (dB) averaged over 8 working hours, or an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA).

Employers must monitor all employees whose noise exposure is equivalent to or greater than a noise exposure received in 8 hours where the noise level is constantly 85 dB. The exposure measurement must include all continuous, intermittent, and impulsive noise within an 80 dB to 130 dB range and must be taken during a typical work situation.

This testing must be repeated should an employee have any change in their job responsibilities that may increase the level of noise that they are exposed to.

What is Audiometric Testing?

Audiometric testing determines the extent of the patient’s hearing abilities by measuring their ability to examine sound intensity, sound balance, and sound frequencies.

The employer must establish and maintain an audiometric testing program. The important elements of the program include baseline audiograms, annual audiograms, training, and follow-up procedures. Employers must make audiometric testing available at no cost to all employees who are exposed to an action level of 85 dB or above.

How Often Should Testing Be Done?

Employers must provide annual audiograms within 1 year of the baseline. It is important to test workers’ hearing annually to identify deterioration in their hearing ability as early as possible. This enables employers to initiate protective follow-up measures before hearing loss progresses. Employers must compare annual audiograms to baseline audiograms to determine whether the audiogram is valid and whether the employee has lost hearing ability or experienced a standard threshold shift (STS). An STS is an average shift in either ear of 10 dB or more at 2,000, 3,000, and 4,000 hertz.