skip navigation

Hearing Conservation

This purpose of this hearing conservation program is to prevent occupational hearing loss and comply with the ILHR/OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910.95 - Occupational Noise Exposure Hearing Conservation Amendment.



[ UWW Health & Safety Policies ][ Environmental Health, Risk Management, Safety & Loss Control ]


Authority and Reference

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.95
Industry, Labor and Human Relations (ILHR) 32.15

Return to top

Application

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Occupational Noise Exposure standard 29 CFR 1910.95 establishes a permissible exposure limit(PEL) for occupational noise exposure, and requirements for audiometric testing, hearing protection, and employee training if those sound levels are exceeded. This regulation defines an "action level" (AL) as a "dose" of 50%, which is equivalent to an eight-hour time weighted average of 85 dBA. When noise levels exceed this amount, an effective hearing conservation program is required, which includes as a minimum:

Requirement Section
1. Noise monitoring 29 CFR 1910.95(d)(e)(f)
2. Audiometric testing 29 CFR 1910.95(g)(h)
3. Hearing protectors 29 CFR 1910.95(i)(j)
4. Education and training 29 CFR 1910.95(k)(1)
5. Recordkeeping 29 CFR 1910.95(m)

Note: The OSHA regulation only indicates a minimum level of hearing protection and focuses on permanent hearing loss. Short durations of noise, especially sharp bursts of noise at these levels can not only induce hearing loss but can also affect an employee's health and safety in other ways (See Table # 1).

Return to top

Background

Occupational noise can cause hearing loss, and increase the worker's susceptibility to other workplace problems including physical and psychological disorders, interference with speech and communication, and disruption of job performance associated with excessive noise intensities. This exposure to noise produces hearing loss of a neural type involving injury to the inner ear hair cells. The loss of hearing may be temporary or permanent. Brief exposure causes a temporary loss. Repeated exposure to high noise levels will cause a permanent loss.

Permanent hearing loss is preventable with the continued use of proper hearing protection and reduction of workplace noise levels to below 85 decibels. This will benefit not only employees who can listen and communicate well throughout their lifetimes, but also helps the employer in terms of reduced exposure to hearing loss compensation claims and a potential for increased general safety and job performance.

Return to top

Responsibility for Compliance

The administration of this program will be the responsibility of (Position designated)
Administrative responsibilities include:

  1. Coordination and supervision of noise exposure monitoring.
  2. Identification of employees to be included in the Hearing Conservation Program.
  3. Coordination and supervision of audiometric testing program.
  4. Supervision of hearing protector selection.
  5. Development of policies relating to the use of hearing protectors.
  6. Supervision of employee training programs.
  7. Coordination and supervision of required recordkeeping.
  8. Periodic evaluation of overall program.
  9. Coordination of required changes/improvements in the program.
Return to top

Noise Monitoring

Noise exposure measurements will be conducted whenever exposures are expected to be between 80dBA and 130 dBA

This monitoring will be coordinated by the Director of Risk Management and Safety with assistance from the Campus Engineer.

The results of the noise exposure measurements will be recorded on Form #1

Return to top

Audiometric Testing

  1. Audiometric testing will be performed on all employees whose exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average TWA of 85 decibles (Action level).
  2. Audiometric testing will be provided at no cost to employees.
  3. Audiometric testing will be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician, or by a technician who is certified by the Council of Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation, or who has satisfactorily demonstrated competence in administering audiometric examinations. A technician who performs audiometric tests must be responsible to an audiologist, otolaryngologist or physician.
  4. Baseline Audiogram
    1. A baseline audiogram will be conducted within 6 months of an employee's first exposure at above the action level in order to establish a valid baseline audiogram against which subsequent audiograms can be compared.
    2. Mobile test van exception. Where mobile test vans are used to meet the audiometric testing obligation, the (Position designated) will obtain a valid baseline audiogram within 1 year of an employee's first exposure at or above the action level. Where baseline audiograms are obtained more than 6 months after the employee's first exposure at or above the action level, employees will wear hearing protectors for any period exceeding six months after first exposure until the baseline audiogram is obatined.
    3. Testing to establish a baseline audiogram will be preceded by at least 14 hours without exposure to workplace noise. Hearing protectors may be used as a substitute for the requirement that baseline audiograms be preceded by 14 hours without exposure to workplace noise.
    4. The (Position designated) will notify employees of the need to avoid high levels of non-occupational noise exposure during the 14-hour period immediately preceeding the audiometric examination.
  5. Audiograms will be conducted at least annually after obtaining the baseline audiogram for each employee exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels.
  6. The (Position Designated) will maintain a record of all employee audiometric test records. This record will include:
    1. Name and job classification of the employee.
    2. Date of the audiogram.
    3. The examiner's name.
    4. Date of the last acoustic or exhaustive calibration of the audiometer.
    5. Employee's most recent noise exposure assessment.
Return to top

Audiometric Evaluation

  1. Each employee's annual audiogram will be compared to his/her baseline audiogram by qualified evaluator to determine if a Standard Threshold Shift (STS) has occurred.
  2. A Standard Threshold Shift is defined by OSHA as a change in hearing threshold relative to the baseline of an average of 10dB or more at 2000, 3000, 4000 Hz either ear.
  3. In determining if a Standard Threshold Shift has occurred, an allowance can be made for the contribution of aging (presbycusis). The age correction values to be used are found in Appendix F of 1910.95.
  4. If an annual audiogram indicates that an employee has incurred a Standard Threshold Shift, the person will be scheduled for a retest within 30 days to determine if the threshold shift is persistent.
  5. The following procedures will be taken if a comparison of the baseline audiogram indicates a persistent standard threshold shift:
    1. Employees not using hearing protectors will be trained, fitted, and required to use hearing protectors if they are exposed to an 8 hour TWA average sound level of 85 decibels or greater.
    2. Employees already using hearing protectors will be retrained, refitted, and required to use hearing protectors.
    3. The (Position designated) will inform the employee, in writing, within 21 days of this determination, of the existence of a permanent Standard Threshold Shift (See Form #2). A copy of the STS letter will also be sent to the employee's supervisor.
    4. The (Position designated) will counsel the employee on the importance of using hearing protectors and refer the employee for further clinical evaluation if necessary.
  6. Persistent significant threshold shifts must be entered on the OSHA 200 Log (From 200) if determined to be work related.
  7. If a subsequent audiometric testing of an employee whose exposure to noise is less than an 8-hour TWA of 90 decibels indicates that a Standard Threshold Shift is not persistent, the (Position designated):
    1. Shall inform the employee of the new audiometric interpretation.
    2. Discontinue the required use of hearing protectors for that employee.
Return to top

Protection Equipment

  1. The (Position designated) shall ensure the hearing protectors are worn:
    1. By any employee who is subjected to sound levels equal to or exceeding an 8-hour TWA of 90 decibels.
    2. By any employee who has experienced a persistent Standard Threshold Shift and who is exposed to 8-hour TWA of 85 decibels or greater.
    3. By any employee who has not had an initial baseline audiogram and who is exposed to 8-hour TWA of 85 decibels or greater.
  2. Employees will be given the opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitable hearing protectors at no cost to them.
  3. The (Position designated) will provide training in the use and care of all hearing protectors.
  4. The (Position designated) will ensure proper initial fitting and supervise the correct use of all hearing protectors.
  5. Employees will be held accountable for properly using and maintaining the equipment furnished.
  6. The (Position designated) will evaluate the attenuation characteristics of the hearing protectors to ensure that a given protector will reduce the individual's exposure to the required decibels (See Form #3).
    1. If the 8-hour TWA is over 90 decibels, then the protector must attenuate the exposure to at least an 8-hour TWA of 90 decibels or below.
    2. If the protector is being worn because the employee experienced a Standard Threshold Shift, then the protector must attenuate the exposure to an 80-hour TWA of 85 decibels or below.
    3. If employee noise exposures increase to the extent that the hearing protectors provided may no longer provide adequate attenuation, the employee will be provided more effective hearing protectors.
  7. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that hearing protectors are worn by all employees who are exposed to noise levels at or above an eight hour TWA of 90 decibels or if the employee experienced a permanent STS or has not yet had a baseline audiogram.
Return to top

Employee Educational Training

An annual training program for affected employees will be conducted by (Position designated) and will include information on:

  1. The effects of noise on hearing.
  2. The purpose and use of hearing protectors.
  3. The advantages and disadvantages of various types of protection.
  4. Instruction in the selection, fitting, use and care of protectors.
  5. The purpose of audiometric testing and an explanation of the test procecedures.

Form #4 will be sued to record the training dates and the employees in attendance.


Return to top

Record Keeping

Noise exposure measurement records will be retained for two years.

Audiometric test records will be retained for the duration of the affected workers employment plus thirty years


Return to top

Program Evaluation

At least annually, the Hearing Protection Program will be evaluated by the Director of Risk Management and Safety using a Program Evaluation Checklist (See Form #5). After the evaluation, the changes/revisions to the program deemed necessary will be made as soon as possible.

This written program may be adapted to fit the particular needs of your facility


NOTE: When there is an asterisk (*) placed in front of a guideline, then this program is not required by the Hearing Conservation Standard.



Return to top

Forms/Tables

    Form #1: Noise Exposure Measurements

    Form #2: Sample Standard Threshold Shift (STS) Letter

    Form #3: Hearing Protection Equipment Summary

    Form #4: Hearing Conservation Training Record

    Form #5: Annual Hearing Conservation Program Evaluation

    Table #1: Permissible Noise Exposures



Return to top