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Hearing Conservation


Objectives What is sound? How the ear works How to measure noise What does OSHA says about noise? Reading hearing tests Hearing Protection


What is Sound? Hertz (Hz) – Frequency a high or low pitch

Decibels (dB) – The loudness of the sound


Frequency Humans can typically hear between 20 - 20,000 Hz


Decibels The quietest sound most humans can detect is 0 dB Some humans can even hear sounds as quiet as -5 dB


Common Sounds 0 dB

Threshold of Hearing

30 dB

Soft Whisper

40 dB

Quiet Office

60 dB

Conversational Speech

80 dB

Very noisy restaurant

90 dB


110 dB


120 dB

Hydraulic press

140 dB

Threshold of Pain – Jet plane

180 dB



Anatomy of the Ear Semi-Circular Canals Ear Drum Cochlea

Ear Bones


How do we Hear? The outer ear collects the sound waves The waves hit the eardrum, and cause it to vibrate The vibrations are sent through the ear bones to the cochlea 8

Inside the Cochlea (snail shell) Delicate hair cells vibrate to different frequencies Hair cells detect the vibration, and send a signal to the brain Loud sounds destroy the hair cells, and they stop functioning FOREVER!


The Ear does something else too! The Semi-circular canals – Three tubes laying perpendicular to one another – Filled with fluid and tiny hair cells – Depending on which way your head is tilted, the fluid moves the hair cells, an they send a signal to your brain

Responsible for balance 10

How to measure noise Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale Every time you add 6 dB, you double the sound pressure of the noise


Example In the field, we determined the loudness of two compressors right next to each other 89 dB

87 dB

How loud is this area? – Do we add? – Do we add and take the average?


Neither, because it is a log scale We use the following chart Difference in Add to Higher dB values Value 0 or 1 dB 3 dB 2 or 3 dB 2 dB 4 or 10 dB 1 dB 10 or more dB 0 dB 82 dB + 83 dB = 86 dB 87 dB + 89 dB = 91 dB 13

How does the Safety Person determine noise levels Sound level meter – Determine the loudness (dB) of noise at any given moment

Personal Dosimeters – Worn by employees – Measures the average loudness in an 8 hour work shift “8hr. TWA” (Time Weighted Average) – Can also measure noise dose


What does OSHA say? At 85 dB (8hr. TWA) (50% Dose) – Train employees – Make hearing protection available – Sample for noise levels – Do hearing tests – Notify employees of results


What does OSHA say? At 90 dB or more (100% Dose) – We must keep levels at or below 90 dB – Or require hearing protection that will lower noise levels to to 90 dB


What are Our Noise Levels? Permissible Noise Exposure Hours Per Day

Sound Level















30 minutes


15 minutes



Hearing Tests We must determine a baseline audiogram We test your hearing every year to determine if you have experienced a hearing loss (Standard Threshold Shift)

Standard Threshold Shift - A loss of 10 dB or more at 2000, 3000, or 4000 Hz. 18

Audiogram 200 Hz

1000 Hz

2000 Hz

3000 Hz

4000 Hz

6000 Hz


5 dB

5 dB

0 dB

5 dB

10 dB

10 dB


5 dB

5 dB

10 dB 20 dB 35 dB

15 dB









Hearing Loss Impact - One loud bang Cumulative - Years of a noisy environment Tinnitus - Ringing in the ears Presbycusis - Hearing loss due to aging 20

Hearing Protection NRR - Noise reduction rating – Express - 25 NRR – Classic - 29 NRR – Max Lite - 30 NRR

DO NOT Subtract the NRR from the noise level – WRONG (109 dB - 25 NRR = 84 dB)

You must use the “Safety Factor”


Safety Factor OSHA says the hearing protection is designed to reduce the noise by the NRR, but that is unlikely to happen due to : – Leaks in the seal – Vibration – Improper insertion

(NRR - 7) / 2


Example of NRR Protection When the dB(C) noise level is known, you don‘t have to adjust the NRR: Noise level at ear: dB(C) - NRR =< 90 dB (*) When the noise level is known in dB(A) the NRR must be reduced by 7 dB: Noise level at ear: dB(A) - [NRR –7] =< 90 dB (*) (*) If a threshold shift (hearing damage) exists the noise level at the ear must be 85 dB or less. Overprotection can be a problem!


Personal Protective Equipment Single-use earplugs. Made of waxed cotton, foam, or fiberglass wool, these ear plugs are self-forming and, when properly inserted, work as well as most molded earplugs.


PPE Preformed or molded earplugs. These plugs must be individually fitted by a professional. Nondisposable plugs should be cleaned after each use.


PPE Band Type Hearing Protectors come on a flexible plastic band that is worn under the chin while the protectors are in the ears. The band can be left resting around the neck while the protectors are not in use. They are designed for convenience in work areas with varying noise levels.


PPE Ear Canal Caps seal the opening to the ear without entering the ear canal. Similar to band-type hearing protectors, they usually come on a band that can be placed around the neck when the caps are not in use for convenience in work areas with varying noise levels.


PPE Earmuffs. Earmuffs require a perfect seal around the ear. Glasses, long sideburns, long hair, and facial movements such as chewing may reduce the protective value of earmuffs. Some special earmuffs are designed for use with eyeglasses or beards.


PPE Active Noise Canceling Headsets use an electronic system to cancel unwanted background noise while at the same time enhancing the quality of audio delivered through the headset. They are used primarily for in-flight noise reduction.


PPE Communication Head Sets block unwanted noise while at the same time allowing the wearer to communicate clearly with coworkers. Special microphones suppress environmental noise to aid in two-way communications.


Work Area Safety Check Insulate noisy equipment Post high noise area signs Limit pass through traffic in high noise areas Conduct noise surveys when new equipment is added Keep extra hearing protectors available in the workplace 31

Pre-Use Safety Check Ensure hearing protection is clean Check Muff Sealing surfaces for cracks or tears


Operation Safety Use hearing protection in areas greater than 85 decibels Use hearing protection when using power saws, impact tools, etc. Replace worn or broken hearing protectors immediately Ensure visitors are provided hearing protection Use hearing protection off the job when shooting, using power tools, etc. 33

Engineering Controls Insulate or isolate noisy machines or operations Proper maintenance & adjustment of equipment Selection of effective hearing protectors


Administrative Controls Worker training Restricted access to high noise areas Rotate workers into & out of high noise areas Relocate workers with hearing loss Annual screening & evaluation of employees


Symptoms of Hearing Loss Ringing in ears Difficulty hearing normal conversations Noises are "fuzzy" or muffled


A Final Note Hearing is important In time, noise levels at 85 dB can permanently damage your hearing

Wear your hearing protection both at work and at home Choose hearing protection with a high NRR, and wear it properly 37

Hearing Conservation Training  

hearing conservation training pdf

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