Approximately 36 million American’s have hearing loss. 33% have hearing loss caused by exposure to excessively loud noise. Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when an individual is exposed to either short impulse noise such as an explosion or gunfire, or from continuous exposure over a long period of time. NIHL can be recreational or occur in an occupational setting.
For those exposed to noise in an occupational setting, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has specific rules and requirements for both employers and employees designed to protect the employee from the harmful effects of noise.
Harmful Effects of Noise:
Noise is one of the most prevalent and pervasive occupational health problems. There are many negative effects of noise exposure including but not limited to fatigue and irritability, permanent hearing loss and or ringing in the ears (tinnitus), temporary rise in blood pressure and even high cholesterol. Prevention is essential to happy, healthy employees.
In an effort to protect individuals who are exposed to loud noise in an occupational setting, OSHA has set forth specific requirements regarding hazardous noise levels, permissible exposure times, routine monitoring of hearing, noise protection requirements and employee education.
Specifically OSHA requires all EMPLOYERS to monitor employees exposed to noise that is equal to or exceeds 85dB over an 8 hour workday or an 8 hour Time Weighted Average (TWA). This includes intermittent, impulse and continuous noise exposure. Employers are required to provide baseline and yearly hearing screenings to monitor employee’s hearing thresholds, as well as provide an appropriate selection of hearing protection and education regarding noise induced hearing loss and use of hearing protection. Yearly hearing screenings must be monitored for the presence of a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) and many additional guidelines are in place in the event an employee exhibits a STS.
Developing/Maintaining a Hearing Conservation Program
Companies may choose to meet the OSHA requirements independently. While this is a viable option, there are many rules and regulations that must be met, and compliance with OSHA regulations is essential to protect both the employee and the employer. An employer who chooses to pursue a hearing conservation program on their own must research the requirements thoroughly and make sure they understand what is mandated by OSHA.
Many companies choose to hire a company who specializes in or provides hearing conservation services. These companies typically conduct all baseline tests, coordinate and provide yearly screenings, and provide analysis of all test results, providing the employer with a list of employees who exhibit a STS or require medical consultation. They also provide the educational component required to educate employees on hearing loss, hearing protection and appropriate insertion of hearing protection. In addition, FIT testing may be available, which is used to verify the noise reduction provided by each employee’s chosen hearing protection.
While choosing to meet OSHA requirements independently may seem like a more cost effective option, failure to test and/or report noise exposure levels and the impact on employees can cost companies thousands of dollars in legal fees and federal fines. Hiring a professional company to ensure compliance is beneficial in the long run.
OSHA also requires an employer’s hearing conservation program to be administered by an Occupational Hearing Conservationist and overseen by an Audiologist or Physician. The Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation(CAOHC) is responsible for certifying Occupational Hearing Conservationists (OHC) or Industrial Audiometric Technicians as well as Professional Supervisors of Audiologic Monitoring Programs (PS/A). Typically the OHC is responsible for administering the hearing screening and educational programs, while the PS/A oversees the OHC and provides more advanced skills such as Standard Threshold Shift determinations and Revision of Baseline as well as make medical evaluation recommendations. The Professional Supervisor in Audiology will also make Work Relatedness Determinations when an employee experiences a permanent change in hearing.
Occupational Hearing Services Provided by Quality Hearing and Audiology
Quality Hearing and Audiology is owned and operated by Pamela Nelson, Au.D., a licensed Audiologist. Janice Richbourg, Au.D. is also a licensed Audiologist and a Professional Supervisor of an Audiologic Monitoring Program certified by CAOHC.
Quality Hearing and Audiology is proud to provide the following Occupational Hearing Services to the businesses of St. Joseph, MO as well as the surrounding communities of NW Missouri and NE Kansas.
- Baseline hearing screenings
- Yearly hearing screenings (conducted on site or in our office)
- Re-Screenings as needed
- STS, Revision of Baseline, OSHA Recordability and Work Related Determinations
- Comprehensive Hearing Evaluations
- Hearing Conservation Education
- Custom Hearing Protection
OSHA Regulations – Provides information on standards, health effects, exposure and noise controls, hearing conservation and additional resources and links.
Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation
Want More Information?
If you are interested in finding out more about the services offered by Quality Hearing and Audiology, we would love to visit your business and discuss how we can help you meet OSHA requirements. Please call us at 816-233-0022.