Hearing Conservation Programs Spread in Workplace

By Smith-Horn, Melissa | THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 16, 1994 | Go to article overview

Hearing Conservation Programs Spread in Workplace


Smith-Horn, Melissa, THE JOURNAL RECORD


Automobile radios blare out stereophonic sounds of the latest rock group, which can be heard even with the windows closed. The jackhammers of construction crews cut away decaying buildings to make way for new ones. The highpitched whines of sleek jets signal landings and takeoffs are heard in airports and air bases around the world. Machinery in industrial facilities throughout this nation and beyond clang, hiss and bellow 24 hours a day.

With the variety of noises, pitch and loudness levels, no wonder keen hearing is becoming a rarity.

Specifically as applied to the work arena, industry now must take steps to prevent the possibility of an employee's on-the-job hearing loss. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has established requirements which state that any company with noise levels over 80 decibels in the facility must have hearing conservation programs in place.

In order for a hearing conservation program to be most effective, it must be three-pronged in design, covering education, testing and protection.

Employee education explains how hearing works and how hearing loss occurs due to noise; what type, of hearing protection are provided and the level at which each of these works best, information concerning which areas in the plant are high-noise levels (must be clearly marked that hearing protection is mandatory in these areas), and the causes of noise-induced hearing loss outside the work setting.

While employee education concerning hearing and protective equipment benefits the employee, it also serves to protect the employer.

Since hearing loss is one of the largest payouts in Oklahoma for workers compensation claims, a hearing conservation program can help to ensure legitimate claims. Occupational medicine specialists recommend that hearing tests be administered prior to employment, periodically during employment and when the employee is laid off, quits or retires.

Performing regular hearing checks and maintaining running records help the occupational medicine specialist distinguish between noise-induced hearing loss and age-induced loss, or presbycusis.

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