Workplace hearing tests

What you need to know about Workplace Hearing tests...

Posted By Stephanie Hancox on 2017-06-27 08:50

Noise At Work Regs 2005

The noise at work regulations 2005, requires all employers to prevent or reduce risks to health and safety from exposure to noise at work. A part of the risk reduction is understanding the impact of noise on hearing and ascertaining the hearing thresholds of your employees and any prospect employees through occupational hearing tests. However on a regular basis we get query after query on the importance of hearing tests and what it involves. So us guys at Healthscreen have decided to to give you a little insight into how these audiometry tests are : performed, assessed and reviewed.

" When I test on site for hearing evaluation, my first priority is to ensure they have clear ear canals and that the test isn't going to be affected by wax. A thorough investigation of their previous employment and any hobbies that may be having a detrimental affect on their hearing i.e. shooting, motorbike riding ect." -Samantha Bennett

What are the ways in which hearing loss can occur?

Any exposure to noise at work can cause hearing loss, which can be either temporary or permanent.  The loss can be caused by long-term exposure to noise, but, it can also be caused by exposure to one particularly loud event. There are several ways in which hearing loss can occur:

  • People can experience temporary hearing loss after leaving a noisy place.  Although hearing recovers within a few hours, this should not be ignored.  It is a sign that if they continue to be exposed to noise their hearing can be permanently damaged.
  • Permanent hearing loss can be caused immediately by extreme sudden noise e.g. explosions, gunfire etc.
  • Permanent hearing loss is usually gradual because of prolonged exposure to noise, this can be made worse with hearing loss due to ageing.
  • People may also develop tinnitus (ringing, whistling, buzzing or humming in the ears).

What level of noise in the workplace?

The level at which employers must provide hearing protection within hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers' health and provide them with information and training is now 80 decibels.

There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels, taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed. So you need to be aware of the noise levels in your workplace constantly. If they exceed the set levels, you need to institute a strategy to protect your employees. 

Hearing Protection Health & Safety Strategy

Any strategy to protect your employee's hearing needs two parts. You need to ensure that proper hearing protection that is rated for the noise environment is supplied and worn. The second part is monitoring of the employee's hearing health. 

Noise Protection

It is really important that any hearing protection you choose for your employees is rated for the noise level they are exposed to. Only then, will their hearing be properly protected. 

Workplace Hearing Tests

You should then institute a regular screening strategy where the hearing of your employees is tested on a regular basis. Workplace hearing tests are quick and easy, they will not take up much time out of an employees day. 

How is Workplace Hearing Screening carried out?

Workplace hearing tests are simple affairs that usually take no longer than ten to fifteen minutes at most. The tests are undertaken to very specific guidelines set down by HSE and differing audiology associations. In essence, what happens is this:

  • -Examine employees ears using Otoscope and record findings on history sheet
  • -Ensure that hearing aids, glasses, earrings etc have been removed.  The ears should be free of anything which might  interfere with the ear cups position
  • -Give clear instructions to the employee
  • -Explain how long the test will take (approximately 8 –10 mins) and how important it is that they concentrate and are not -  distracted by any movement or outside noise
  •  Explain the type of sound that will be heard and give a short demonstration
  • -Explain and demonstrate how to use the button on hearing the noise
  •  Place or ask the employee to place the ear cups over the ears, with the red cup on the right ear and blue cup on the left  ear
  • -Press start on the KLD 21/Amplivox PC850.
  • -Print out results and attach to appropriate form.
  • -Provide relevant advice to employee i.e. correct use of PPE, inform employee to notify Manager of any concerns
  •  Ascertain outcome: within normal limits, re-call or referral (see procedure for referral to Head Office)
  •  Complete appropriate outcome for employer

 HSE Categorisation For Audio Results

Category Calculation Action
Hearing within normal limits
Sum of hearing levels at 1,2,3,4 & 6 kHz. None
Hearing within 20th percentile. i.e. hearing level normally experienced by 1 person in 5.  May indicate developing NIHL.
Sum of hearing levels at 1,2,3,4 & 6 kHz.  Compare value with figure given for appropriate age band and gender in Table 2. Warning
Hearing within 5th percentile. i.e. hearing level normally experienced by 1 person in 20.  Suggests significant NIHL.
Sum of hearing levels at 1,2,3,4 & 6 kHz.  Compare value with figure given for appropriate age band and gender in Table 2. Referral
Reduction in hearing level of 30 dB or more, within 3 years or less.  Such a change could be caused by noise exposure or disease.
Sum of hearing levels at 3,4 & 6 kHz. Referral
Difference between the ears is greater than 40dB
Sum of hearing levels at 1, 2, 3, & 4 KHz for each ear. Referral

Interpretation of an audiogram may highlight hearing loss either caused by noise exposure or other causes.  Further tests will be required to ascertain the causes of any abnormal audiogram.  These will be conducted by trained medical professionals following referral.

We hope this clears up any questions you might have about hearing tests in the workplace. If you have any questions about Occupational hearing tests or any other health and safety services in the UK, or you are looking for health and safety services in Leicester or across the UK, don't hesitate to call us on 01455 234 600 or contact us online. 

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