The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) requires pre-employment and annual medical testing for workers in a variety of industries to ensure the environment is safe and healthy for all employees. Some of the tests include physicals, respirator fit testing, and audiometric testing. In this blog, we will be discussing audiometric testing, its importance, and how your organization can stay OSHA compliant. Let’s discuss.

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What is Audiometric Testing?

Audiometric testing is a test that checks a person’s ability to hear sounds and assists in monitoring an employee’s hearing over time. During the test, the employee will be instructed to wear a set of headphones and respond to various tones that are played in each ear.

The audiometric testing program is established and maintained by the employer. Audiometric tests are available at no cost to employees and provide an opportunity to educate them about hearing and the steps they can take to protect it. The program can consist of various elements including baseline audiograms, annual audiograms, training, and follow-up.

Baseline Audiograms vs. Annual Audiograms

OSHA defines a baseline audiogram as “the reference against which future audiograms are compared in order to determine the extent to which an employee’s hearing is deteriorating.” This test is taken within 6 months of an employee’s exposure at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 dB.

An annual audiogram is the yearly audiometric test that is taken within 1 year of the baseline. The annual test is compared to the baseline to identify any changes and determine if the audiogram is valid as well as whether the employee has lost hearing ability. By completing an annual audiometric test, workers can identify deterioration in their hearing as early as possible. Following the test, employers can provide protective measures before the hearing loss progresses.

audiometric testing decibel level chart
Audiometric tests measure hearing loss due to exposure to 85 dB noises and above.

Audiometric Testing Follow-up

After the audiograms have been completed, the employer must fit any employees showing an STS with adequate hearing protectors. An STS or standard threshold shift refers to a shift in either ear of 10dB or more at 2,000-4,000 hertz. Employees should wear hearing protectors if they are exposed to 8-hour Time-Weighted Average (TWA) noise levels of 85 dB or more. The fitted hearing protectors should be comfortable and offer sufficient protection to prevent hearing loss.

Some employees may need to seek a physician if the testing professional believes that the test may have been inaccurate or that there is a larger problem at play. A medical referral is required if an employee is unable to take a test, does not respond reliably, or has irritation or pain in the ear canal caused by protection such as earplugs. If an employee is urged to seek a physician, the employer must pay for any referrals that are intended to identify the effects of occupational noise exposure or from wearing the required hearing protection.

What are OSHA’s Audiometric Testing Regulations?

OSHA requires employers to provide a safe workplace for all of their employees. In order to stay compliant with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.95, employers must do the following:

  • Employers should maintain a Hearing Conservation program to include monitoring, testing, follow-up, training, and recordkeeping.
  • Establish and maintain an audiometric testing program available to all employees whose exposures equal or exceed 85 dB over an 8-hour time-weighted average.
  • The program should be available at no cost to employees.
  • Audiometric tests will be performed by a licensed physician, audiologist, or certified technician.
  • Employee’s annual audiograms should be compared to their baseline audiogram to determine the validity and if an STS has occurred.
    • If an STS is present, the employer must obtain a retest within 30 days and consider the results of the retest as the annual audiogram.
  • Noise exposure measurement records should be kept for 2 years and audiometric test results must be kept for the duration of the employee’s employment.
    • Audiometric tests records should include the following:
      • Name
      • Job classification
      • Date
      • Examiner
      • Date of last acoustic or exhaustive calibration
      • Measurements of background noise pressure levels in the testing room
      • Employee’s most recent noise exposure measurement

Need audiometric testing at your workplace? We provide audiometric testing, follow-ups, and referrals at the employer’s request. All testing will be provided by trained technicians and onsite nurses. If you’re interested in learning more about our audiometric testing and additional services an onsite nurse can provide–contact us today!

State of Workplace Health