Audiometric testing in the work environment is part of the employer’s duties to carry out. It needs to be ascertained what the individual’s hearing levels are to begin with. An audiometer is used to measure these levels. Onsite Audiometric test measures the ability to discriminate between a variety of different sound intensities, pitches, and the ability to distinguish spoken word from background noise. The results of these tests can be used to determine, investigate, and treat hearing loss or disease of the ear.
In many work environments, high noise levels are unavoidable. Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Minimizing of risks to both he employer and employee are of great importance. Regulations are in place to protect the hearing of employees and to enforce hearing tests for those who work in noisy environments in order to keep check of any damage being caused.
Occupational health management, in conjunction with audiometric testing is used for various reasons in the workplace.These include:
- Reduction of sick leave
- Early detection of ill-health or potential problem areas
- Compliance with Noise at Work Regulations
- Reduction of industrial compensation claim liabilities
In the workplace where noise is excessive, all employees must be provided with hearing protection apparatus that is sufficient to dull the noise entering the ear, and prevent damage and hearing loss.
There is a specific code of practice set down for all companies to follow in order to manage noise and prevent hearing loss at work. There are two types of assessments that can be carried out.
Baseline assessment is a first assessment that is carried out within three months of an employee starting work. The baseline assessment has a validity of ten years and any subsequent assessments are compared against this initial baseline assessment. This is a way of tracking any changes in the hearing condition of the employee. A baseline assessment should be carried out on an employee when they have been in relative quiet for a number of hours before the assessment. This is so that true results are reflected. After this initial baseline assessment expires, a new baseline will be taken after ten years and any subsequent thereafter, are compared to the new baseline assessment.
Monitoring assessments are carried out periodically every twelve to twenty-four months and are commonly conducted after a shift where the employee has been subjected to the usual noisy environment. This is so that it can be determined what the resulting temporary hearing loss is per shift. By doing this, it is easier to determine what permanent damage may be caused over an extended period. Results of these tests offer the employee and opportunity to place greater importance and care on how diligently they use their hearing protection. The company is also more readily able to evaluate how effective their noise management processes are.
Each employee needs to receive correct training of how to use their hearing protection correctly in order to reduce the damage caused effectively.
Hearing in the workplace is imperative in emergency situations. Realizing and being warned of imminent danger could prevent life-threatening situations.
It is in the best interest of employers to take care of their employees in order to ensure a strong workforce, one which is not prone to unproductive days off, and unnecessary claims off industrial compensation. These are all costly to the company, less costly than the care taken to properly assess, look after, and train the staff in proper practices to protect their hearing.
Audiometric testing in the workplace is not necessarily only to judge noise induced hearing loss, it can be used to diagnose more serious issues such as cancer which can be life threatening.
Similar methods of audiometric testing are used when testing in the workplace as with any other hearing test. Results are placed in graph format which make it easy to decipher where there are any points of weakness.
The Hard Facts
In the mining and construction industries, two out of three workers will suffer hearing loss by the time they reach the age of fifty years old. Constant subjection to heavy machinery and loud operations in the workplace has made noise induced hearing loss more prevalent. Hearing is essential for good safety practice. In times of emergency, the ability to hear properly could reduce disastrous effects.
Armed forces in active duty are subjected to noise level of gigantic proportions. More than fifty percent of troops returning from Afghanistan suffer from noise induced hearing loss or some kind of acoustic trauma.
Farmers are three times more likely to suffer hearing loss than any other industry. From a young age, these people are subjected to harmful noises like tractors, combines, and even the sound made by squealing pigs.
Noise related hearing loss is the second most prevalent work related ailment suffered by fire fighters.
The manufacturing sector holds the majority share of industry and is the largest producer of noise risk than any other. Occupational hearing loss in this industry is excpetionally high.
Noise induced hearing loss is permanent and is definitely not reversible. It cannot be remedied, simply aided by use of equipment like hearing aids. If this hearing impairment goes untreated, productivity of the employee will drop.
Can companies really afford the losses that may result from a workforce who is subjected to hearing loss caused through noise in the workplace? The answer here is a resounding no. It is more cost-effective to put their efforts into managing noise levels in the workplace, offering effective training in how to protect your hearing, and providing the best equipment for this purpose.
For the safety of yourself, and that of your fellow workers, take care of your hearing. Wear the appropriate hearing protection and use it in the correct manner. Always remember that is your productivity is hindered through loss of hearing, you may suffer the consequences through less work hours and lower pay rates.
Companies are taking more responsiblity for their employees and the effects operations have on the hearing health of their staff. This can only be a positive move in the right direction for all.