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Hearing Health Surveillance

Hearing surveillance is the use of systematic, regular, appropriate procedures to detect early signs of hearing loss.

The following sections place hearing surveillance in the context of an integrated risk management process

 

Hazard

Noise is part of everyday life, but prolonged exposure to high noise levels can cause permanent and disabling hearing damage.

Noise exposure in the workplace is measured using a “daily noise exposure level” (LEX, 8h) (dB) (A)

This is an average of the noise exposure level for a nominal eight-hour working day. It covers all noises present at work, including impulsive noise.

Workers who have prolonged exposure to noise levels above the daily noise upper exposure action of 85dB(A) will be at increased risk of damage to their hearing resulting in noise-induced hearing loss.

Risk to Health

Irreplaceable hearing loss.

The effect of noise on hearing can be temporary or permanent. Temporary deafness is often experienced after leaving a noisy place. Although hearing recovers within a few hours, this should not be ignored as it is a sign that continued or regular exposure to such noise could cause permanent damage.

Hearing loss is usually gradual due to prolonged exposure to noise. It may only be when damage caused by noise over the years combines with normal hearing loss due to ageing that people realise how deaf they have become. (Source H.S.A.)

With hearing damage, conversation becomes difficult or impossible, you can’t hear television or phone conversations, normal day to day communication becomes difficult.

Legislation

Chapter 1 of Part 5 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 (S.I. No. 299 of 2007) sets down the minimum requirements for the protection of workers from the health risks associated with noise in the workplace.

Risk Assessment

The employer is obliged to carry out a Risk Assessment for workplace exposure to high noise levels if there is evidence that this is the case for some workers, for example:

    The noise is intrusive or worse, for most of the working day

    You have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when about 2m apart

    There is exposure to noisy powered tools or machinery for over half an hour a day

    Speech around you sounds muffled or dull after leaving a noise area

    You have pain or ringing in your ears (tinnitus) after exposure to noise


Start with a walk through survey of all the workplaces. Use a general purpose noise meter to take initial measurements. Make a map of your initial estimates.

You are required to make a reliable, representative estimate of your workers’ daily personal noise exposure. Daily personal noise exposure represents a daily noise ‘dose’ – a combination of ‘how loud’ and ‘how long exposed’ for the various noises that a person is exposed to in a working day. You also need to determine the likely peak sound pressure levels to which workers are exposed. This means commissioning a Noise survey for the areas where you suspect that the noise exposure is above the lower exposure action values: LEX,8h = 80 dB(A) and Ppeak = 135dB(C) in relation to 20 µPa.

Commission a reputable company to carry out a detailed Noise Survey to determine daily personal noise exposure for all noise exposed workers. The average daily noise ‘dose’ data will determine if the current noise counter measures are adequate and in compliance with Health and Safety regulations.

Hearing Conservation Programme

The objective of a hearing conservation program is to reduce exposure to noise, it incorporates hearing surveillance as well as engineering, administrative, educational interventions, as well as the use of HPE.

Preventative Action aims at reducing noise at source.

Risk control measures aim at reducing the exposure through engineering, administrative and through use of hearing protection equipment.

Hierarchy of Risk Controls

A control measure is simply what steps you are going to take to remove a hazard (eliminate) or at least reduce it to a low level (minimise).

Hiearchy of Noise Controls

On-Site Hearing Surveillance

Hearing surveillance is the use of systematic, regular, appropriate procedures to detect early signs of hearing loss.

Hearing Surveillance is also a measure of the long term effectiveness of noise control measures.

Hearing Surveillance will identify and protect individual / group of workers at increased risk of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

MedWise Mobile Medicals provide a complete hearing surveillance service from on-site hearing checks, result analysis, specialist occupational health physician review of results, site summary report and multi-year trending and reporting.

Preventative Audiometric Testing

The regulations require preventative audiometric testing in those exposed above the lower exposure action value.

Lower exposure action values: LEX,8h = 80 dB(A) and Ppeak = 135dB(C) in relation to 20 µPa

The employer must make available preventative audiometric testing, which means carrying out an audiometry test on every worker who is exposed to daily noise levels above the lower exposure action value.

Hearing Checks

The regulations require that appropriate hearing surveillance is made available to those employees for whom a risk assessment reveals a risk to hearing.

Where daily exposure exceeds LEX,8h = 85 dB(A) and Ppeak = 137dB(C) in relation to 20 µPa. Carry out mandatory hearing Checks.

Purpose of Hearing Checks

The purpose of hearing checks carried out as part of hearing surveillance is to provide early diagnosis of any hearing loss due to noise and to assist in the preservation of hearing of employees.
The “hearing check” requires:

(a) Taking of a medical history of the worker, with particular reference to hearing difficulties and use of hearing protection equipment (HPE)
(b) Examination of the external auditory canal and the tympanic membrane.
(c) The pure-tone audiometric screening test.

MedWise Mobile Medicals will carry out Hearing Checks following the H.S.A. Guidelines on Hearing Checks and Audiometry under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007, Control of Noise at Work

MedWise Mobile Medicals hearing checks are carried out under the supervision of a Specialist Occupational Health Physician, who will review abnormal test results to determine likely causation of hearing loss and can carry out follow up assessments, if required.