"In 2008, approximately 2 million workers were exposed to noise levels that put them at risk of hearing loss.” -National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
With on-the-job, noise-induced hearing loss a widespread occupational issue, it’s easy to see it’s a problem that needs attention. Safety managers have long struggled with having to include recordable cases in the OSHA 300 log. It’s obvious no one wants to see their employees get hurt, or find that by the time noise-induced hearing loss is recognized, the damage has already been done.
So how can managers find at-risk employees before permanent hearing loss happens?
A recent guidance statement on noise-induced hearing loss from the American College of Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) identifies the early warning signs to look for in audiometric test results. The guidance statement refers to metrics that aren’t usually accessed in a hearing conservation program, but can be calculated from available data. In particular, the data includes a 10-dB non-age corrected standard threshold shift (STS) or an 8-dB age-corrected STS. Individuals meeting either of these criteria are at greater risk of a recordable hearing loss in the coming years, and are consequently at risk of permanent hearing impairment.
In addition, the ACOEM guidance statement mentions the importance of finding temporary threshold shifts that could lead to an STS. And while it’s not required by OSHA, it’s also highly recommended to test at 8k Hz to assist in identifying a noise notch or age-related hearing loss.
[Information provided by Benson Medical Instruments.]