Dr. Theresa Y. Schulz is the hearing conservation manager for Honeywell Safety Products, manufacturer of Howard Leight® hearing protection products (www.howardleight.com, www.hearforever.org). She is a past president and has been an active member of the National Hearing Conservation Association [NHCA] for 30 years. Dr. Schulz served in the U.S. Air Force for over 20 years as an audiologist.
In the United States, hearing conservation regulations are promulgated by governmental authorities such as OSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), and other agencies, depending on jurisdiction.
There are many challenges in managing occupational Hearing Conservation Programs: Fit, Selection, Protection, and Motivation. Environment may also be a major factor, such as at Shaw Industries Group, Inc., the world’s largest carpet manufacturer and a leading floor covering provider.
As soldiers return from active combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, both the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Administration (VA) have seen a significant increase in hearing damage, tinnitus and hearing loss compensation claims of active-duty soldiers and veterans — to the tune of $1.1 billion.
Although it is physically an injury to the hair cells of the inner ear, noise-induced hearing
loss (NIHL) is considered and documented as an illness by OSHA. This article examines noise-induced hearing loss as both an injury and illness, and looks at ways to use leading indicators to prevent occupational hearing loss.
It is a misconception that hearing-impaired or deaf workers do not have to participate in a hearing conservation program. Like those with normal hearing, these workers still fall under OSHA, MSHA and FRA regulations for occupational noise exposures.