Hearing conservation is a primary concern for those exposed to hazardous noise levels on the job.
Occupational noise-induced hearing loss is a growing concern, but can be prevented when your employer follows OSHA requirements and establishes a hearing conservation program.
By law, such a program must be instituted when noise levels reach an average of 85 decibels or greater over an 8-hour period.
Hearing Conservation Program Requirements
Sound intensity is measured in units called decibels. Decibels increase as the noise level rises. 85 decibels is the established threshold for safe hearing; anything exceeding this can cause hearing loss that is irreversible. OSHA states that employers must monitor noise levels and offer protection to employees that will help prevent hearing loss. In addition, they are required to provide workers with the knowledge and tools needed to protect themselves from hearing loss and must offer free yearly hearing exams and training sessions and keep records detailing the effectiveness of hearing protection used by employees. Studies indicate that employers who establish effective hearing conservation programs reap the benefits through higher productivity levels and fewer absences.
Effective Hearing Protection
- Hearing conservation programs help prevent hearing loss by offering protection devices, usually earplugs or earmuffs. Earplugs come in a variety of styles including:
- Pre-molded. These are universally sized and inserted directly into the ear as is.
- The wearer shapes this type before inserting it into the ear.
- Custom molded. Made from impressions of your ear canals, this type is designed to match the shape and contours of the individual’s ear for a personalized fit and tight seal.
- Semi-inserts. These are attached to a band to prevent them from falling out of the ears.
Earmuffs are worn over the ears rather than inside the ear canals, and work by creating a seal that prevents excessive outside noise from entering the ear canals. Employers have the option of offering either type of device to their employees as long as they meet the proper rating requirements.