All employees whose exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 dBA will be tested annually. The program will be provided at no cost to employees and may utilize an outside source to perform the actual tests.
Audiometric tests will be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other qualified physician, or by a technician who is certified by the council of accreditation in occupational hearing conservation. Washington Audiology Services is the current provider of onsite testing, worker training, and hearing protector fit consultations at PLU.
The first test establishes a valid baseline audiogram for each effected employee. The baseline audiogram will be used to compare subsequent audiograms. Because PLU uses the services of mobile testing and education units, workers shall be tested within the first year of employment to obtain a valid baseline audiogram. All affected employees must still be given training and hearing protection when they begin work, as required by state regulations.
Testing to establish a baseline audiogram must be preceded by at least 14 hours without exposure to workplace noise. This may be accomplished by use of hearing protectors. However, the supervisor must notify employees of the need to avoid high levels of non-occupational noise exposure during the 14-hour period immediately preceding the audiometric examination.
New audiograms will need to be obtained annually for each affected employee. Annual audiometric testing may be conducted at any time during the work shift. As with baseline audiograms, employees must avoid noise for 14 hours preceding the test.
Evaluation of Audiogram
An audiologist, otolaryngologist or other qualified physician will review audiograms that indicate a standard threshold shift to determine whether there is need for further evaluation. Each employee will be informed of the results of his/her audiometric test and whether or not there has been a hearing level decrease or improvement since his/her previous test.
Annual audiograms will be compared to each employee’s baseline audiogram to determine if a standard threshold shift (STS) has occurred. A certified audiometric technician will make this evaluation.
If the annual audiogram indicates that an employee has an STS, the university may obtain a retest within 30 days and consider the results of the retest as the annual audiogram. If this does not occur, or if the STS persists, it shall be entered into the OSHA Workplace Injury Log for reporting purposes. Workers will be notified in writing within 21 days of determination of an STS.
If a comparison of the annual audiogram to the baseline audiogram indicates a standard threshold shift, the Environmental Health & Safety Manager and the supervisor will ensure that the following steps are taken:
- Employees not using hearing protectors are to be fitted with hearing protectors, trained in their use and care, and required to use them.
- Employees already using hearing protectors must be refitted and retrained in the use of hearing protectors and provided with hearing protectors offering greater attenuation if necessary.
- Inform the employee in writing, within 21 days of the determination, of the existence of a standard threshold shift.
- Refer the employee for a clinical audiological evaluation or an otological examination if additional testing is necessary or if the employer suspects that a medical pathology of the ear is caused or aggravated by the wearing of hearing protectors. There will be no cost to the employee.
- Inform the employee of the need for an otological examination when a medical pathology of the ear that is unrelated to the use of hearing protectors is suspected.
An annual audiogram may be substituted for the baseline audiogram when, in the judgment of the audiologist, otolaryngologist or other qualified physician who is evaluating the audiogram:
- The standard threshold shift revealed by the audiogram is persistent.
- The hearing threshold shown in the annual audiogram indicates significant improvement over the baseline audiogram.
Audiometric Test Requirements
Those conducting all audiometric tests must assure the university that the tests meet the requirements of WAC 296-817-400.