New test, new best practice to reduce hearing damage risk
The availability of this new test will have a dramatic effect on the management of hearing loss prevention programmes…
New technology has become available that provides companies with data that they can use to check the real world performance of their hearing conservation programmes very quickly and very easily. It is a development of otoacoustic emission (OAE) screening technology that, unlike conventional audiometry, can be used to detect the very early stages of damage to the outer hair cells in the cochlea. Coupled with the latest hardware, it is a fast, objective, accurate and low cost test that can be used to assess the difference between the theoretical and the actual protection afforded by PPE programmes.
Applying OAE in practice
OAE has been used as standard practice to evaluate the hearing of babies for many years, but is relatively new in the industrial arena. However, AkzoNobel in the Netherlands, for example, has been using OAE to track changes in the condition of staff hearing to inform risk management procedures and as a motivational tool. OAE is an objective test that does not require special soundproof facilities (a quiet office will do) and the results, (in the form of % damage) are easily understood and tracked. An HSE report on the usefulness of OAE testing in occupational health surveillance (in 2011) concluded, that, even then, it was useful for the early detection of at risk groups and commented on the value that it can bring to preventative risk management of noise health risks.
Noise competency training update
As OAE will become an important element of best practice, we will soon be updating our IOSH competency training courses to reflect this fact. These one-day refresher Master Classes will be run in conjunction with Rob Shepheard, Consultant Audiologist and a leading expert on the subject in the UK. Contact us if you’d like advanced information on the dates and venues.
Would you like to test the technology on your site at no cost?
Rob would like to run some additional field trials of the technology as part of a fully funded project (via Acton Plan on Hearing Loss – NHS). This would involve testing a small number of noise exposed personnel and collating the results – at no cost to the host company. You would get the results and be able to test the approach in advance of its imminent adoption as part of best practice.
Please contact us if you would like to discuss the changes we foresee in best practice and the potential benefits to your company. If you would like to take part in the study, contact us or contact Rob directly at firstname.lastname@example.org +44-1603-208419.