Industrial Hearing Evaluation
Hearing damage is a very real and very unfortunate effect of long term exposure to loud noise. This is an especially common hazard of industrial workers and workers of any occupation that are repeatedly exposed to noise.
Thankfully, this type of hearing damage is fully preventable when the right precautions are taken. Regular hearing tests to evaluate any early signs of hearing loss, as well as everyday preventative measures such as the use of ear plugs go a long way toward prevention of permanent hearing loss.
Industrial Hearing Test Requirements
Organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) have enacted required guidelines and procedures for hearing conservation in an effort to standardize hearing safety practices and reduce the incidence of preventable hearing damage associated with these occupations. Some states also have their own guidelines, as well as the Department of Defense.
In most cases, OSHA and MSHA require that employees who are exposed to a time weighted average (TWA) of 85dB or be part of a hearing conservation program which includes hearing testing and employee training. Industrial manufacturers are also required to report evaluation results. Official hearing conservation standards are listed in OSHA CFR 29 1910.95 & MSHA Part 62.
Industrial Hearing Conservation Programs
Some companies choose to meet these requirements independently. However, most companies choose to hire out a hearing conservation company to conduct hearing evaluations, keep records, and make sure they comply with all safety standards and meet safety goals.
Not testing and reporting noise exposure levels and their impact on employees can cost companies thousands in legal fees and federal fines. Hiring someone to make sure they are in complete compliance is worth it in the long run.
Hearing conservation companies usually have mobile hearing evaluation units that are used to travel and perform on-site hearing evaluation services. They are typically staffed by an audiologist and/or an Occupational Hearing Conservationist (OHC, also known as an Industrial Audiometric Technician).
OHC Technicians are certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC) and are supervised by an audiologist or physician. They are trained to conduct hearing conservation procedures including pure-tone air-conduction hearing testing. Their training is very specific to occupational settings only and is not applicable in nonoccupational practices.
Education and Referrals
OHC Technicians are trained to detect possible indications of early hearing loss as well as provide training for employees. If a possible hearing problem is detected, the technician will refer the employee in for further tests by a hearing specialist.
Basic education and training for employees includes how to properly fit and wear hearing protection devices. Some employees may require more sophisticated and customized hearing protection, which the technician can recommend for them.
OHC technicians are not qualified to independently evaluate hearing conservation program effectiveness or conduct noise surveys and analysis , so a more qualified professional will need to be hired for the purpose of designing a program that will fit company needs.
As you can see, hearing evaluations are an important part of keeping industrial working environments safe for employees. Each company will need to find industrial hearing testing solutions that work for them.