Frequently Asked Questions
Workplace Integra is committed to helping America's employers ensure the conservation of hearing for their most important asset—their people. We're pleased to provide answers to some of the frequently asked questions we are asked; please see below. Have a question that isn't listed? Just reach out to us by emailing us here!
Hearing Conservation Programs
- When is a hearing conservation program needed?
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a hearing conservation program is required “whenever employee noise exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average sound level (TWA) of 85 decibels measured on the A scale (slow response) or, equivalently, a dose of fifty percent.”
- What are the key elements of a hearing conservation program?
Hearing conservation programs are centered upon ensuring that employees hearing is protected. A hearing conservation program generally includes these core components:
- Noise measurement and monitoring
- Audiometric testing
- Audoigram surveillance (reviews)
- Hearing protection selection and fit testing
- Employee training and education
- Record keeping
- Program performance evaluation
- Is hearing loss preventable in a noisy environment?
Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, but when a person’s exposure is not reduced or properly protected against noise, permanent hearing loss can occur.
- Can hearing aids correct/undo damage done by noise?
Hearing aids and surgery cannot correct the damage done to the ear by loud noise.
- Is employee training required? If so, what must be covered?
Hearing Conservation Training is required annually for all employees with noise exposures of 85 dBA TWA or greater. The training must orient employees to the purpose and use of hearing protection, along with policy regarding the hearing conservation program.
Regulatory Requirements Related to Hearing Conservation
- What is a PEL (Permissable Exposure Limit) for noise?
The permissible exposure limit is a legal limit in the United States for exposure of an employee to a chemical substance or physical agent such as high-level noise. Permissible exposure limits are established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. An employee may be exposed to noise up to 90 decibels over an 8-hour time-weighted average; they MUST wear hearing protection at or above this level. Further, an employee must be enrolled in a hearing conservation program when exposed at or above 85 decibels over an 8-hour time-weighted average.
- At what noise level is hearing protection required?
- What are options for controls to reduce noise exposure?
If the Noise level exceeds 90 dBA, the OSHA Noise Standard requires that engineering and administrative control measures must be investigated, evaluated, and where feasible, utilized to reduce employee exposures.
- What are Administrative controls to reduce noise exposure, and when can/should they be used?
When engineering measures are not enough to reduce the noise below 90 dBA, administrative methods may be used to minimize employee exposure. Some of these are:
- Increasing the distance between the employee and the noise source
- Scheduling worker rotation from high noise levels to quiet areas
- Limiting the time for certain operations
- Relocation of job tasks which may be completed out of high noise areas
- Restricting access to work areas or operations
- What are Engineering controls to reduce noise exposure?
If you are unable to eliminate or reduce the source of noise by purchasing quieter equipment, you should initiate the following engineering controls:
- Contact the equipment manufacturer for noise abatement suggestions
- Dampen or reduce surface vibration
- Install enclosures or sound insulation materials
- Is hearing protection "one-size fits all"?
No; everyone has different size ear canals. Each person should be fitted by a competent person to ensure they receive the right size protector.
- How frequently should hearing protection be replaced?
The usable life of the hearing protection product is dependent upon the care it is given, but a general guideline is:
- Sponge plugs: 1 or 2 days
- Custom plugs: 18-24 months
- Insert plugs: 4-6 months
- Muffs: Replace when worn out
- Do ear plugs require any cleaning?
Yes. Keep ear plugs clean by washing them in warm, soapy water and be sure they are completely dry before inserting into the ears. Inspect them regularly, and replace with a new pair if they become damaged, hard, or worn out.