A hearing loss prevention program, often referred to as a hearing conservation program, is an essential part of any jobsite that produces hazardous noise. The ultimate goal of a hearing conservation program is to help protect workers from noise-induced hearing loss and establishes best practices on how to do so.
One of the reasons why a formal hearing loss prevention program is so important is that it increases employee engagement in wearing hearing protection. When a company shows their commitment to preventing hearing loss, their employees become more likely to share in the practices that are required to help protect their hearing.
The seven components of a successful hearing conservation program:
- Measure – Accurate measurement of employee exposure to noise helps identify who is at risk for noise-induced hearing loss and who should be included in hearing conservation program, and helps select the proper noise controls and equipment to help reduce worker risk.
Noise measurement in worker areas should occur on a regular basis (e.g., every two years) and should be repeated whenever there is a significant change in employee noise exposure. This can include instances like changes in work assignments, machinery/equipment, production processes or maintenance routines. It is also a good idea to reassess and measure noise control when work practices change or if workers are developing hearing threshold shifts.
- Control – Hearing protection should be the last option considered as a means of noise control. This is why controlling the noise in a hazardous environment is the first choice for reducing noise exposure through engineering (controlling noise at the source of the equipment or along its path of transmission) or administrative controls (e.g., job rotation or limiting the number of people in noisy areas) is so important. Equipment can be designed to be quieter to help reduce number of employees who are part of the hearing conservation program.
- Protect – If noise levels can’t be controlled on the jobsite, employers must provide an adequate selection of hearing protectors for workers. Hearing protection devices (HPD) should be comfortable, fit properly, provide adequate protection for the environment and be compatible with other personal protective equipment. Another important consideration is workers' ability to communicate with one another and to hear important sounds such as alarms. A common reason that workers remove their HPD is because of the need to communicate; therefore providing a hearing protective device with communication helps to enable workers to have hearing protection combined with the ability to communicate.
An important aspect of protecting workers includes ensuring workers are wearing their hearing protection properly. earplugs and earmuffs can help validate the personal attenuation rating (PAR) of each employee to ensure they are properly protected.
- Check – Standardized audiometric (hearing) testing and monitoring should be performed routinely to check if employees are showing symptoms of noise-induced hearing loss. This will allow employers to detect and record hearing changes in workers to help prevent permanent hearing loss from occurring. It is recommended to conduct a baseline test with new employees and then recurring tests to measure if any changes in hearing have occurred.
- Train – Everyone involved in the hearing loss prevention program should be educated and trained to ensure hearing protectors are being worn properly. Noise-induced hearing loss can occur gradually, which is why it’s important to strengthen worker training and motivation to actually wear hearing protection. Training should be ongoing and cover all topics of the hearing loss prevention program, including topics such as the effects of hazardous noise and risk to hearing.
- Record – All aspects of the HLPP should be recorded, including roles and responsibilities, results of noise exposure measurements, control measures, educational programs, audiometric test results, workers’ protection levels and the ongoing evaluation plan. Everything measured as part of a hearing conservation program should be recorded. Accurate and updated records should be keep on noise surveys, worker attenuation ratings and training schedules. This will allow you to manage your program and conduct audits to measure its success. Ultimately, this helps protect your company and workers long-term because it will allow you to record cases of work-related noise-induced hearing loss and respond to worker compensation claims.
- Evaluate – The final aspect of a successful hearing conservation program is measuring its success to ensure an effective program. This can be done by inviting regular worker feedback, visual inspections, program evaluations and periodic noise measurements. This will help you identify trends, highlight problem areas and allow you to recognize areas of improvement.
Preventing noise-induced hearing loss among workers is the most important driver in any hearing loss prevention program. These key aspects of your program will help you limit the amount of noise workers are exposed to and help protect them from the noise that remains.
For more information on developing a hearing conservation program for your workers, please speak to one of our experts.
Thank you! Your request was submitted successfully. A representative will contact you shortly.