OSHA 29 CFR1910.95 mandates that all employers administer a hearing conservation program as a complete safety management. An effective hearing conservation program consists of the following elements: monitoring, audiometric testing, hearing protectors, training program, enforcement, record keeping, and program evaluation(DiBerardinis, 1999). The purpose of this paper is to give a brief description of each and explore various hearing protection devices.
Components of a Hearing Conservation Program
Firstly, as the backbone of an effective hearing conservation program, monitoring involves observation and scrutiny of the safety system to ensure efficacious implementation. It comprises of both area and personal monitoring, with employees asthe main focus. Secondly, audiometric testing measures how well the program is working. Changes in various controls may signify that hearing protection, noise control, and training aspects require adjustments. Thirdly, hearing protectors are provided to employees exposed to noise that exceeds 85dBA. Employees should always be given the option to choose their desired type from a variety. Fourthly, a training program helps in equipping employees with necessary skills within the hearing conservation program. Common elements of the training include maintenance, proper use, and storage of hearing protection devices, theimportance of hearing loss prevention, thepurpose of audiometric testing and hearing protectors, as well as availability and explanation of noise sampling data. Lastly, Enforcement, record keeping, and program evaluation involve disciplinary measures, employee monitoring measurements, and assessment of new processes and equipment respectively( Sataloff & Sataloff, 2006).
A hearing conservation program requires employers to supply their employees with hearing protection devices. These can either be amplification, uniform attenuation, nonlinear, or intelligent devices. Amplification devices are advantageous in aspects of communication, impulse noise management, situational awareness, and as a solution for hearing impaired workers. All the same, they demand vigorous training and have high maintenance costs and prices.
On the other hand, uniform attenuation devices are beneficial in that they allow for more natural sounds and lower attenuation, and are available in earmuffs and earplugs. They are ideal for hearing-impaired workers. Even so, they are costly and have lower attenuation compared to other earplugs. Their alternative non-linear hearing devices possess capabilities of offering protection from high noise levels and impulse noise. They also allow for situational awareness and communication in quiets environments. However, their drawbacks include high costs compared to passive devices and their appropriateness for specific environments.
Lastly, intelligent hearing devices are advantageous in that they allow for communication in changing noise, situational awareness, integration with active hearing protection, connection with radios, and compatibility with other personal protective equipment. They are, nevertheless, limited by high costs and their specificity to certain environments and applications.