Occupational Noise Exposure
Hearing Conservation Program
Hearing conservation programs strive to prevent initial occupational hearing loss, preserve and protect remaining hearing, and equip workers with the knowledge and hearing protection devices necessary to safeguard themselves. Employers are required to measure noise levels; provide free annual hearing exams, hearing protection, and training; and conduct evaluations of the adequacy of the hearing protectors in use (unless changes made to tools, equipment, and schedules result in worker noise exposure levels that are less than the 85 dBA). Research indicates that workplaces with appropriate and effective hearing conservation programs have higher levels of worker productivity and a lower incidence of absenteeism.
The following references provide information that can help employers develop and implement a hearing conservation program.
- Hearing Conservation. OSHA Publication 3074, (Revised 2002). Summarizes the required component of OSHA's hearing conservation program for general industry. Covers monitoring, audiometric testing, hearing protectors, training, and recordkeeping requirements.
- Hearing Conservation for the Hearing-Impaired Worker. OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB), (December 27, 2005). Focuses on how hearing conservation programs can address the needs of hearing-impaired workers who are exposed to high levels of noise in their workplace. Industrial hearing conservation programs may not fully address the specific needs of hearing-impaired workers for hearing protection and communication.
- Innovative Workplace Safety Accommodations for Hearing-Impaired Workers. OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB), (July 22, 2005). Identifies challenges hearing-impaired workers face responding to emergencies, working safely around machinery, communicating with coworkers, and receiving training. Accommodations necessary to address these challenges may not be part of an employer’s current hearing conservation practice.This Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) focuses on (1) Emergency/Evacuation Response Considerations for Hearing-Impaired Worker sand (2) Workplace Safety and Health Considerations for Hearing - Impaired Workers.
- Hearing Protection-Emerging Trends: Individual Fit Testing. OSHA and the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) Alliance, (August 2008). This best practice document provides information on fit-testing of hearing protectors.
- Noise and Hearing Loss Prevention. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Safety and Health Topic. Provides a useful list of questions to help an employer or safety professional set up and evaluate a hearing loss prevention.
- Hearing Conservation Related Websites. Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC). Provides education, information and guidance to industry and those serving industry regarding the successful implementation of an occupational hearing conservation program. It seeks to prevent occupational hearing loss.
- Hearing Conservation Solutions. E-A-R/Aearo Technologies (3M company). Links to many free resource materials on noise and hearing conservation topics, such as the following:
- EAR Log Series. Consists of 21 technical monographs and reference materials on hearing and hearing protection.
- The Ardent Hearing Conservationalist. Elliott Berger, E-A-R/Aearo Technologies (3M company).
- Hearing Conservation Manual, 4th ed. Suter, Alice; Ed. E. Berger. Milwaukee, WI: Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC), 2000. Contains information including how to set-up and maintain a hearing conservation program, how the hearing conservation team works to prevent hearing loss, updated and expanded regulatory information from OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and more.