The effective hearing conservation program was designed to help workers and employees prevent loss of hearing due to work practices, improve their moral as well as overall well-being, increase productivity and efficiency, as well as reduce occupational illnesses. Therefore, this program is very important to be administered by employers to make sure all their workers are efficient, productive, healthy, and can hear vividly. Furthermore, employers must administer this program continuously especially for employees who are exposed to noise at prolonged hours and at high frequencies (8 hours weighted average time at 85 decibels or, equivalently, 50% dose).
Requirements for the Program
There are a few requirements that employers need to secure before they can administer this program. Here are the requirements:
- Engineering controls – there should be plausible administrative or engineering controls utilized in the program. However, in the event that these controls fail to reduce noise levels, personal protective gear can be used.
- Monitor – monitoring should be conducted for employees who are exposed to noise levels at prolonged hours (8 hours weighted average time of 85 decibels).
- Test – audiometric testing is required for the program for employees who are exposed to noise levels at prolonged hours (8 hours weighted average time of 85 decibels).
- Protective gear – employers should be able to provide protective hearing gear to all employees who are exposed to noise levels at prolonged hours (8 hours weighted average time of 85 decibels) at no cost for the employees.
- Training – an annual training program is required to be administered by the employer for employees who are exposed to noise levels at prolonged hours (8 hours weighted average time of 85 decibels). There are also certain mandated aspects that should be included in the training such as effects of various noises on hearing; purpose, pros, cons, and attenuation of different kinds of hearing protectors; and the purpose of audiometric training.
- Recording – it is required that the employers keep an accurate recording of exposure measurements of all employees exposed to noise for prolonged hours at 85 decibels.
Hearing Protection Devices
As mentioned above, in case the engineering controls fail to operate properly, the employer must be able to provide its employees hearing protective devices they can use to reduce noise levels. Generally, there are two different hearing protection devices you can use: earplugs and earmuffs. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice is usually up to the industrial hygienist to provide you with the best hearing protection device that will reduce the proper amount of noise.
- Earplugs – there are four different earplugs you can choose from: premolded which does not require to be molded anymore prior to insertion in the ear thereby preventing soiling of the earplugs before it is even used; formable which can be formed and shaped by the user prior to insertion so clean hands are important when forming; custom molded to perfectly shape the ear canal of the wearer; and, semi-inserts which is a soft ear plug with bands at the end to keep the earplugs in place.
- Earmuffs – instead of inserting something inside the ear, earmuffs create a barrier outside to prevent noise from the outside from entering the ear. They are easier to wear and provide consistent fit than earplugs.
Loss of hearing is common in many workplaces that deal with telephones. This is why the hearing conservation program was created. This is to prevent loss of hearing of employees and potentially help improve their overall well-being.