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Increasing personnel safety with workplace audiometric testing

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Safe Environments advises companies to conduct periodical workplace audiometric testing for employees exposed to noisy environments.

A person who frequently uses Personal Hearing Protection (PHP) at the workplace to reduce the risk of hearing loss associated with noise that exceeds the exposure standard, is required to undertake audiometric testing.

While workplace audiometric testing is required by the NSW Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 every two years, AS 1269.4:2005 Occupational Noise Management Part 4 Audiometric Testing recommends audiometric testing on an annual basis. It is recommended that annual audiometric testing be undertaken particularly when there is potential exposure to ototoxic agents or hand arm vibration (HAV).

Pre-employment audiometric testing

Prior to commencing work in a noisy environment, or at least within three months, a worker must go through audiometric testing to establish whether any significant hearing loss may be contributable wholly to their employment at their last workplace. Pre-employment audiometric testing is essential to limiting liability and workers compensation premiums resulting from noise induced hearing loss.

How is audiometric testing conducted?

Audiometric testing involves presenting a series of tones to a person to which they respond, indicating that the person has heard a tone. The tones are presented at different sound levels to record the lowest level at which a person can hear, also called the threshold limit. The audiometric testing is conducted for different frequencies for both ears separately.

Prior to the audiometric testing, an otoscopic inspection is conducted to view the condition of the outer ear and the tympanic membrane or commonly known as the ear drum. This assists to identify pathologies, or disease other than the potential for workplace hearing loss.

What are the benefits of audiometric testing?

Regular audiometric testing will help identify people who are at risk of significant hearing loss by detecting changes in their hearing threshold. Audiometric testing during monitoring is best conducted at least a few hours into their shift to identify any Temporary Threshold Shift (TTS).

Temporary Threshold Shifts identify that the personal hearing protection and noise reduction strategies are not working effectively and require immediate corrective action.

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