At the end of this module, you will be able to:
- Describe the properties of sound
- Identify the anatomy of the ear
- Describe how the ear interprets sound
- Differentiate between types of noise and understand their impact on hearing
- Describe hearing loss and how to prevent it
- List the requirements of a hearing conservation program
- Compare the advantages and disadvantages of ear muffs versus ear plugs
- Identify noise hazards and select the appropriate hearing protection
The following key questions are answered in this module:
What causes hearing loss?
If the stereocilia are damaged, hearing loss will occur. Hearing loss can occur from several conditions or sources, including ear infections, aging, impact, childhood diseases, medications, or from repeated exposure to excessive noise.
What's the best way to reduce the risk of hearing loss?
The best way to avoid hearing loss is to eliminate the hazard. An example of this is by eliminating the need to preform a noisy task, thereby eliminating the noise.
If you can't eliminate noise at the workplace, what's the best way to reduce the risk of hearing loss?
First, try an engineering control, like putting the noisy object inside a sound-proof enclosure. Then, try work pratctice controls, like reducing the amount of time people spend near the noise. Finally, try PPE, like hearing protection. In some cases, you may use multiple controls at the same time.
What is the actoin level?
Employers shall administer a hearing conservation program for employees in work environments where noise exposure equals or exceeds the action level. In the United States, an 8-hour TWA at or above 85 dB is called the "action level."
What are ear muffs?
Ear muffs are insulated cups that cover the entire ear. The cups are filled with a sound-reducing material to prevent sound waves from reaching the ear.
What are ear plugs?
Ear plugs are made from foam or other soft materials and are designed to fit inside the ear canal. Ear plugs block sound waves from entering the inner ear.
What training should employees receive about hearing protection and noise?
Any employee whose noise exposure meets or exceeds the action level are required to participate in employee training. The training should be repeated every year and should also be updated if there are any changes to work processes or hearing protective devices.
Below is a transcript of the video sample provided for this module:
The best way to avoid hearing loss is to eliminate the hazard. An example of this is by eliminating the need to perform a noisy task, thereby eliminating the noise. If a hazard can't be eliminated, then an engineering solution should be attempted. For example, if noise levels in a particular area are excessive, an engineering solution could be to enclose the noisy machine within a sound barrier or replacing a noisy machine with a quieter one, thus reducing the level of noise down to acceptable levels. If there's no way to engineer a solution, then administrative solutions can be implemented. An example of an administrative solution is to limit the amount of time workers can spend in a noisy area. Another way to minimize the effects of a hazard is to use personal protective equipment. An example of PPE is wearing hearing protection to work within a noisy area.
Use the additional resources and links below to learn more about this topic:
- U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) - www.osha.gov
- OSHA Safety & Health Training Topics - www.osha.gov/SLTC/noisehearingconservation/
- OSHA QuickTakes: Noise & Hearing Conservation - www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/noise/
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) – www.cdc.gov/niosh/
- NIOSH Workplace Safety & Health Topics- www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/noise/
- National Hearing Conservation Association - www.hearingconservation.org/