Westminster, Colo — In an effort to promote best practices in hearing conservation, the National Hearing Conservation Association (NHCA) has issued a set of guidelines to assist audiologists and other professional reviewers to determine the recordability of occupational hearing loss.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) record keeping regulation (29 CFR 1904.10) states that companies are required to report documented hearing loss in the form of qualifying Standard Threshold Shifts (STS), on the OSHA 300 Log. However, according to NHCA, there is evidence that occupational hearing losses are routinely under-reported.

The organization said in a press statement that professional supervisors (audiologists and physicians) have at times reported difficulties in making a determination of recordability and work-relatedness.

NHCA also says that it has heard from hearing professionals that they sometimes feel pressure from clients to alter their professional assessment in a manner that benefits the client.

NHCA’s president, Timothy L. Rink, PhD, said that the new guidelines for recording hearing loss cases are the result of over 2 years of intensive review by a task force of hearing health care professionals chaired by Dr Alice Suter.  “Physician and audiologist reviewers who are responsible for making the determination to record an OSHA STS on the 300 Log will now have consistent and uniform guiding principles to assist them in making that decision,” Rink said in the NHCA press statement.

The NHCA guidelines advise hearing professional reviewers to take into consideration the following when determining occupational hearing loss for documentation on the OSHA 300 Log:

  • OSHA’s policies as well as legal determinations that if it is more likely than not that any part of a qualifying hearing loss is work related, it must be recorded.
  • Noise measurements, including work area and personal dosimetry measurements, to determine the worker’s time-weighted average exposure level.
  • Audiometric configuration; that is, describing configurations consistent with non-work-related causes.
  • Non-occupational exposures and medical history.

While the guidelines discuss documentation of hearing protection use and compliance with the limits set by the Hearing Conservation Amendment (29 CFR1910.95), they emphasize that this compliance is not sufficient evidence to establish that no part of the loss was work-related.

NHCA’s guidelines also provide advice to professional service providers as to how to deal with pressure to underdocument occupational hearing loss, and emphasize the need for consistent, diligent follow-up for STS occurrences, whether or not the STS meets the qualifications for recordability, in order to prevent further loss.

The new guidelines are now available on NHCA’s Web site (pdf download).

SOURCE: National Hearing Conservation Association