Employee Hearing Conservation Training Program

When feasible engineering and administrative controls don't adequately reduce noise exposures, you (the employer) must provide and pay for hearing protection devices (HPDs).


OSHA's Occupational Noise Exposure standard is in the General Industry regulations at §1910.95. When employees are exposed to 85 or more decibels (dB) averaged over an eight-hour period, the employer must implement a hearing conservation program that includes noise monitoring, hearing tests, hearing protection devices (HPDs), recordkeeping, and an annual training program. All of these provisions can be overwhelming to an employee, but a thorough training program can help employees understand how the program works.

Specific Training Elements

  1. Introduce the hazards of noise.
    The most obvious hazard from being exposed to excessive noise is that it can cause noise-induced hearing loss.
    In addition to causing temporary or permanent hearing loss, excessive noise can:
    • Cause you to miss hearing important warnings or instructions;
    • Cause fatigue from the strain of talking and listening over the noise; and
    • Cause increased blood pressure, headaches, sleeping disorders, and other ailments.
    Trainer's noteTell employees not to believe that they will "get used to" the noise in the workplace.
  2. Describe how engineering controls can reduce or eliminate noise hazards.
    The most effective way to control noise is to eliminate it by using engineering controls. Generally, the term "engineering controls" means using materials and equipment.
    Common examples of engineering controls are:
    • Installing a muffler on a machine,
    • Erecting acoustical enclosures and barriers around noisy equipment,
    • Installing sound absorbing material on walls,
    • Installing vibration mounts under equipment,
    • Making sure moving parts on machinery are properly lubricated, and
    • Buying quieter equipment.
    Trainer's noteProvide examples of how engineering controls have been used to reduce the noise in your workplace.
  3. Explain how administrative controls can reduce noise.
    The next way to control noise hazards is through administrative controls. This involves managing how work is assigned.
    Examples include operating a noisy machine only during a shift when fewer people are exposed, or moving an employee to a less noisy job once he has been exposed to a certain daily dose of noise.
    Even providing quiet areas where employees can get relief from workplace noise is an example of an administrative control. Lunchrooms and break areas should be located away from noise.
    Trainer's noteGive examples of any administrative controls in place at your facility.
  4. Outline the requirements of a hearing conservation program.
    When it is not feasible to otherwise reduce noise to a safe level, the employer has to implement a hearing conservation program. A hearing conservation program is required for all employees whose noise exposure levels equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dB.
    The hearing conservation program includes provisions for:
    • Monitoring noise levels,
    • Providing employees with audiometric testing,
    • Using appropriate HPDs,
    • Training, and
    • Recordkeeping.
  5. Describe how noise levels are monitored.
    Noise monitoring is done for many reasons, including:
    • To determine whether noise levels could contribute to hearing loss,
    • To determine whether noise interferes with communication or warning signals,
    • To identify employees for the hearing conservation program,
    • To set priorities for noise control efforts,
    • To identify areas where hearing protection practices are needed,
    • To evaluate specific sources of noise, and
    • To evaluate the success of noise control efforts.
    Monitoring is conducted using sound level meters, dosimeters worn by employees, or other more sophisticated acoustical equipment. Employees must be able to observe the monitoring. Employees who are exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dB must be given the results of the monitoring.
    Trainer's noteDisplay your noise monitoring equipment.
  6. Explain how you provide hearing tests.
    Employers have to provide affected employees with hearing tests in order to know if the hearing conservation program is effective.
    A technician uses an instrument (an audiometer) to send sounds (tones) through headphones. The person being tested responds to the test sounds. The chart that records responses to the test sounds is called an audiogram. Employees can request test results.
    You first have a baseline audiogram. This is followed up with annual audiograms. If tests show that you have experienced a certain change in the hearing threshold relative to the baseline audiogram, additional testing or examinations may be necessary, and you need to be refitted and retrained in the use of HPDs.
    Trainer's noteYou may want to have a separate session to explain the audiometric testing program so that employees know what to expect during the tests.
  7. Demonstrate how to use HPDs.
    By wearing HPDs, you reduce the level of sound entering the ear. Three typical types of HPDs are:
    • Earmuffs,
    • Ear canal caps, and
    • Earplugs.
HPDs must be available (at no cost) to any employee who is exposed at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 dB. Under certain conditions, employees can be requiredto wear the HPDs. You must be able to select HPDs from a variety of suitable choices. The HPDs must fit properly, and you must be trained to use and wear them correctly.
For example, to correctly insert foam earplugs, follow the manufacturer's instructions. In general:
  1. Roll the earplug between your fingers so it is tightly compressed into a smooth, long, slender cylinder.
  2. Reach over your head with the opposite hand and gently lift and pull your ear to straighten the ear canal.
  3. While holding your ear, insert the compressed earplug with your other hand, and hold it in place with a finger while it expands into your ear.
Trainer's noteHave volunteers help you demonstrate how to wear and adjust HPDs.
Quiz: Have you heard about hearing conservation?
For each question, show if you think the statement is "True" or "False."
  1. Noise can cause temporary hearing problems. True/False
  2. Putting a noisy machine on a rubber mat can help reduce noise. True/False
  3. Employees have to buy the earplugs they use. True/False
  4. You don't need a hearing test to know if you're losing your hearing. True/False
  5. Employees have to stay away while noise monitoring is done. True/False
Name: __________________ Date: ________________
Answers to Quiz
  1. True
  2. True
  3. False
  4. False
  5. False

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