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Industrial Hearing Testing

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Hearing damage is a real and unfortunate effect of long-term exposure to loud noise. Noise is a hazard of industrial workers and workers of any occupation who are repeatedly exposed to loud noise.

Hearing damage from noise is fully preventable when the right precautions are taken. Regular hearing tests evaluate any early signs of hearing loss, use of ear plugs, and limiting exposure duration go a long way toward prevention of permanent hearing loss.

Industrial Hearing Test Requirements

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the arm of the US Government which has enacted requirements and procedures for hearing conservation. This reduces the incidence of preventable hearing damage  and standardizes hearing safety practices. Additionally, some states and the Department of Defense. have their own guidelines.

In most cases, OSHA requires employees who are exposed to a time weighted average (TWA) of 85 dB  noise levels to be part of a hearing conservation program. This includes hearing testing and employee training. Companies which have "at risk" job sites 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.

Failure to test and/or report noise exposure levels and the impact on employees can cost companies thousands in legal fees and federal fines. Hiring a professional to make sure they are in complete compliance is worth it in the long run.

For large companies with "at risk" noise levels, usually they contract with specialized Hearing testing companies with mobile hearing evaluation units staffed with Industrial Audiometric Technicians. Their training is very specific to occupational settings only and is not applicable in non-occupational practices. Small to mid sized companies may contract with Audiologists directly. Even the tests performed by Audiometric Technicians will need to be reviewed by an Audiologist or a Physician.

Education and Referrals

Basic education and training for employees may include how to properly fit and wear hearing protection devices. Some employees may require more sophisticated and customized hearing protection. Environmental modifications on the part of the employer may also be in order. If documented hearing damage ocurrs, the company may have to move the employee out of the high-noise area or modify the environment.

For further information, contact this Audioloigist or :

www.hearingconservation.org  (The National Hearing Conservation Association)

or

www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingcoservation/hearingprograms.html