Here’s how the National Park Service rolled out a hearing loss prevention program. Substitute “workplace” for “park” and you’ll pick up some ideas for your own efforts to prevent hearing loss.

Remember, 30 million Americans are exposed to hazardous noise at work, according to NIOSH. This has caused permanent hearing loss for about ten million workers. It’s a very preventable loss. Read on…

The National Park Service used two-day workshops to implement its hearing protection program. Who was targeted for attendance? Park management, full-time and collateral duty safety officers, department heads, first line supervisors, and “motivated and involved employees.”

The park service did a concise, organized job of marketing its hearing loss prevention program. In advance, attendees were told they had an “opportunity” to learn what it takes to implement a successful program and gain practical hands-on experience.

What did the workshops cover? Day one began with a step-by-step review of hearing loss prevention program elements, and how to put them in place. Trainees learned to use sound level meters to identify noise hazards and evaluate employee exposures. Skills were reinforced by conducting a comprehensive sound level survey of the work environment. Survey data was stored for retrieval and analysis to determine employee risk. Those successfully completing the workshop received certificates of training as workplace noise monitors.

Day two focused on employees who were identified the previous day as having high-risk jobs. These workers received required employee training and on-site audiometric testing.

When rolling out any safety program, including one on hearing conservation, it’s important to motivate employees by specifying outcomes. The National Park Service listed seven:

1) Trained management, safety professionals, and supervisors with practical experience in program implementation;

2) Workshop participants receive a resource package containing the tools necessary to implement a program;

3) Completed comprehensive sound level survey;

4) Trained workplace monitors;

5) A list of exposed employees who must participate in a hearing loss prevention program;

6) Trained employees and employee involvement; and

7) Audiometric testing.


Remember, a short, intense sound — an explosion, for example — might cause immediate hearing loss. But usually hearing loss occurs gradually after prolonged exposure to loud noise. Employees might not even realize they are losing their hearing. In time, sounds can become muffled or distorted.

SIDEBAR: OSHA standard highlights

  • You must develop and implement a noise monitoring program when “information indicates that any employee’s exposure may equal or exceed an 8-hour average exposure of 85 decibels.”

  • Monitoring must be repeated whenever a change in production, process, equipment or controls increases noise exposures to the extent that: additional employees may be exposed at or above the action level; or attenuation provided by hearing protectors may be rendered inadequate.

  • You must establish and maintain an audiometric testing program. Audiometric testing must be available to all employees whose exposures equal or exceed an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels.

  • The program is to be provided at no cost to employees.

  • You must make hearing protectors available to all employees exposed to an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels or greater at no cost to the employees. Hearing protectors must be replaced as necessary.

  • You must ensure that hearing protectors are worn.

  • Employees must be given the opportunity to select their hearing protectors from a variety of suitable hearing protectors provided by the employer.

  • You must provide training in the use and care of all hearing protectors provided to employees.

  • A training program must be directed at all employees who are exposed to noise at or above an 8-hour time-weighted average of 85 decibels. You must ensure participation in this program.

  • Training must be repeated annually for each employee included in the hearing conservation program.