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Facts About Noise #7

OSHA's Hearing Conservation Requirements

Whenever feasible, employers are required to reduce the noise at the source through engineering solutions. When this is not possible or economically feasible it is acceptable to use hearing protection as a temporary solution. The term hearing conservation as defined by OSHA includes the following aspects, which the employer is responsible to carry out:

  • Monitoring of the noise environment. If the TWA (Time Weighted Average) noise level is exceeding 85 dB(A), a hearing conservation program is required.
  • Selecting hearing protection devices appropriate for the environment or environments at hand. Several different types of hearing protectors are required to be offered to the employees, in order to introduce a level of personal choice. The employer is responsible to pay for the original equipment as well as replacements. The employees are required to use the hearing protection, and the employer is responsible for the enforcement.
  • Training and educating employees in the proper use of hearing protection, the importance of full time use of hearing protectors when working in a noisy environment. Education and training is considered an essential and ongoing activity.
  • Establishing a baseline audiogram for each noise exposed employee, and annual hearing tests thereafter in order to monitor the hearing health of the employees. Have the audiograms evaluated by an audiologist or physician.
  • Take corrective action when it is concluded that a noise induced hearing damage is occurring. Corrective action can entail further education and training in the use and importance of full time use of hearing protection. Seeking the use of hearing protectors better suited to the environment and the individual. Using, what is called administrative controls, which simply means to reduce the exposure time for the employee in question. If these efforts fail, an employee may be transferred to a quieter job.
  • The above summary of OSHA's hearing conservation requirements is not intended to be complete. The complete regulation (29CFR-1910.95) is available on the internet. You can access it from Elvex website, by clicking on this link.

Facts about noise # 5: Conflicting information about how to  use the NRR

Check out the NIOSH noise meter!

OSHA's Permissible Noise Exposure

90 dB 
92 dB
95 dB
97 dB
100 dB
102 dB
105 dB
110 dB
115 dB
8.0 hours
6.0 hours
4.0 hours
3.0 hours
2.0 hours
1.5 hours
1.0 hours
30 minutes
15 minutes
How to use the NRR
When the dB(C) noise level is known, you don't have to adjust the NRR:
Noise level at ear: dB(C) - NRR =< 90 dB (*)
When the noise level is known in dB(A) the NRR must be reduced by 7 dB:
Noise level at ear: dB(A) - [NRR -7] =< 90 dB (*)
(*) If a threshold shift (hearing damage) exists the noise level at the ear must be 85 dB or less.
Overprotection can be a problem!
Selecting a high NRR hearing protector for an environment where only good high frequency attenuation is needed, will lead to unnecessary insulation and communications difficulties.
Field Attenuation
It has been proven in many studies that hearing protectors are not as effective in the field, as the laboratory numbers indicate. In the laboratory the hearing protectors are used correctly, while in many field situations they are not. Employees are either not trained or motivated to make the effort to use the protectors in a correct way. NIOSH recommends a de-rating of 50-70% for earplugs and 25% for earmuffs.
Is Your Program Working?
How do you know if your hearing conservation program is working? The answer is in your annual audiograms. If they do not show any new noise induced hearing damage, your program is working.

Links to hearing protection pages: | Reusable Earplugs | Disposable Earplugs, Elvex Blue | Disposable Earplugs, Uni-Fit | Banded Earplugs | Headband Earmuffs | Cap Mount Earmuffs | Electronic Hearing Protection | QuieTunes AM/FM Radio | Hearing-Face Combos | OSHA Hearing Conservation Summary | Hearing Conservation Videos | View Order Form |

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