Audiometric testing programs can be accomplished in several different ways. Making the best choice usually depends on knowing what your company needs and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the model options and selecting the option that makes the most sense for the employer and employees.
In general, the broadly used models can be categorised as:
The number of workers who are tested annually is usually a factor in which delivery model works best.
Audiometric test programs need qualified people to conduct the hearing checks and also a professional, either an audiologist or physician, to provide program oversight and review “problem audiograms.” The term audiometric technician or occupational hearing conservationist (OHC) describes the person giving the tests. There is education and certification available for audiometric technicians.
Professional oversight of the audiometric testing program is required by regulation and can be provided by either an audiologist or physician.
Audiologists or physicians are also permitted by regulation to conduct the hearing checks. So in some programs, both the administration of the testing and the program review may be done by the same person.
If you are setting up an in-house audiometric testing program, you will need several pieces of equipment. The typical equipment list includes:
Audiograms are used to document existing hearing loss, detect any deterioration of hearing and appropriate rehabilitation. It does not measure the effectiveness of noise control measures or the causes of any hearing damage or injury. Recommended procedure for audiometery can be found in AS/NZS 1269.4.
An audiogram should be run according to AS/NZS1269.4 Section 8. A significant threshold shift is defined as:
Normal hearing thresholds are in the range of 0 – 25 dB hearing level (HL). Thresholds that are greater than 25 dB HL are said to be outside the normal range and indicate that a hearing loss is present. There are typical patterns of hearing loss, sometimes associated with the cause of the hearing loss.
Thresholds that are either outside the normal range of hearing or atypical for a type of hearing loss are considered to be abnormal.
When thresholds are abnormal, more attention is needed in order to determine the best approach to managing the hearing loss and worker.
There are times when test results are either incomplete, were not done according to the regulatory requirements, or do not represent the actual hearing ability of a worker. Invalid tests cannot be used to meet regulatory requirements and do not serve the purpose of identifying early stages of noise-induced hearing loss. Sometimes the test can be repeated to correct errors, either due to improper testing protocols or equipment malfunction. Other times a worker may need to be referred to an audiologist for more comprehensive testing.
Any confirmed threshold shift should lead to action as described in AS/NZS129.4 Section 9. Confirmation leads to a review of all of the relevant factors e.g. noise generation, ototoxic agents, training and fit of HPD's.
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