OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

December 7, 1987

Dr. Todd Sagin
Abington Memorial Hospital
Family Practice Center
Abington, Pennsylvania 19001

Dear Dr. Sagin:

This is in response to your letter of November 20, to Dr. Ralph Yodaiken of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Office of Occupational Medicine inquiring about hearing conservation programs and "ear blasts" on communications headsets. Dr. Yodaiken asked me to answer your questions.

Enclosed for your information are copies of the OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95 occupational noise exposure regulation and its March 8, 1983 hearing conservation amendment. The hearing conservation amendment begins on page 9776 of the enclosed Federal Register notice. Please note that this regulation describes the rudiments of an effective hearing conservation program and sets forth the conditions (average eight hour exposures greater than 85 dB(a)) requiring implementation of such a program.

"Ear blast" occurs when spurious noise signals other than speech occur in the earphone(s) or ear insert(s) of communications headsets. It is, of course, quite possible for these sounds to be quite intense even though they may not necessarily contribute to much of an average exposure. In such cases, there would be a danger of possible acoustic trauma. The OSHA noise exposure regulation states that exposure to impulse sounds above 140 dB is not allowed.

A rather simple solution to "ear blast" signals is the incorporation of voltage limiters in headset circuitry. OSHA is aware of studies done on employee noise exposures from communications headsets performed by the AT&T Bell Laboratories. Contact:

Mr. G.M. Wilkening, Director
Environmental Health Environmental Management and Safety Center
AT&T Bell Laboratories
600 Mountain Avenue
Murray Hill, NJ 07974
Telephone: (201) 582-6565

Please contact this office if further information is necessary.


Raymond G. Kunicki
Office of Science and Technology Assessment