industrial hearing tests & tinnitus support
Industrial Hearing Test
An industrial hearing test is a hearing assessment that is conducted on-site at the workplace, or in a hearing clinic, and often conducted by an audiologist. Employers will sometimes require a hearing test to ensure their employee either has sufficient hearing to safely perform the tasks of their job, or to obtain a baseline measure of hearing as the employee works in a noisy environment which could affect their hearing if precautions are not in place. These are the common reasons an employer would want their employee to submit a copy of their hearing assessment, and the scenarios are described below.
- Prospective employers want to establish that their candidates have sufficiently normal hearing to safely perform the required tasks of the position.
Although many people with varying degrees of hearing loss are able to function perfectly in their jobs and day to day life, certain industries have very strict criteria for their applicants in regards to medical conditions, including hearing loss. To establish one’s eligibility for these industries, a current hearing test is required.
The Canadian Coast Guard describes the importance of, and reliance on hearing: “those working during Search and Rescue (SAR) and buoytending operations must often distinguish sounds and command in extreme winds, cold, rain and fog. They must be able to detect the variations and directions of sounds such as bells, whistles, alarms and normal and abnormal machinery sounds (Ref. 16).”
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is a well-known institution that requires all applicants complete a hearing test. The RCMP requires the audiologist performing the hearing test to declare whether the individual meets the hearing standards of the organization. RCMP applicants must not have any hearing loss greater than 30 dB in the better ear from 500 Hz to 3000 Hz and no hearing loss greater than 30 dB in the worst ear in the range of 500-2900 Hz and no more than 50 dB in the worst ear at 3000 Hz, (Ref. 17).
Any persons applying to aviation training programs must meet the standards of the Transport Canada medical, category 1. Applicants “shall not show a hearing loss, in either ear separately, of more than 35 dB at any of the frequencies 500, 1000, 2000 Hz or more than 50 dB at 3000 Hz (Ref. 18).”
It is important to have the specific forms for each organization completed by the audiologist who conducted the hearing test, as they may require different test elements. For example, when applying to the Police Constable programs in Ontario, should the applicant not meet the standards for first stage of the hearing test, they can still have a chance by successfully completing a second stage of a hearing test that involves repeating back words in quiet and in background noise (Ref. 19).
- Prospective employers wish to establish a baseline hearing level as the position takes place in substantial noise and could cause hearing damage without appropriate measures taken.
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss (Ref. 20). The factors of NIHL include the level (how loud) and duration (how long) of exposure. According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS), employers are required to provide hearing protection as part of a hearing conservation program, but only after the following measures have also been put in place: eliminate the hazard, add engineering controls (e.g., place louder equipment in an enclosed space), substitute equipment, and add administrative controls (e.g., alternate shifts in noisy areas).
Employers must implement a hearing conservation program when noise is at or above 85 dBA (Ref. 21). Depending on the province or territory you are working in, there are different noise exposure limits, based on an 8-hour shift of continuous noise exposure. In Ontario the limit of safe noise exposure for an 8-hour shift is 85 dBA. For every increase of 3 dBA, the safe listening time decreases by half. Following this exchange rate, at a dB level of 97 dBA, your safe listening time before damage occurs is only 30 minutes (Ref. 22). Employees of factories, plants, transit companies, as well as various trade professionals including but not limited to: plumbers, electricians, mechanics, glaziers, millwrights, carpenters all have a high probability of exposure to unsafe noise levels.
Upon completing an industrial hearing test, you can learn about custom hearing protection to help reduce chances of noise induced hearing loss. Should your hearing test reveal you are a candidate for hearing aids, there may be an opportunity to apply for funding through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
Establishing your baseline hearing at the start of a new job is key. Informing yourself on properly fit hearing protection and ways to prevent noise induced hearing loss before it happens will help maintain the hearing you have now. A hearing test every three to five years is recommended (or sooner if you notice changes), and annually once hearing loss is documented.
The Hearing Room is equipped to work with patients who are impacted by noise induced hearing loss. Tinnitus (ringing in the ear) can be an unfortunate and, at times, debilitating result of noise induced hearing loss. Although there is no medical tinnitus treatment that can eliminate tinnitus, there are many support programs offered at The Hearing Room that can significantly improve the quality of life of a person who is suffering.