AIHCE Roundtable 227, "The Hearing Conservation
Amendment: Has it Protected the American Worker?"
It has been over 15 years since the Hearing Conservation Amendment to the occupational
noise exposure standard was finalized. How has the amendment fared in protecting the
hearing health of the American workforce? This roundtable provided a forum for this and
other issues by placing the Amendment "on trial." Advocates for both sides
presented their cases in front of the audience who, after a discussion period, voted on
the Amendment's effectiveness.
Below you will find abstracts for and, in some cases, presentations from, this
Also, there is a summary of the roundtable and its results.
Supporting that the Amendment has accomplished its goals:
William W. Clark, Ph.D. - Criteria for Protecting Workers at Risk - Currently
The criteria for identifying and protecting workers at risk of hearing loss due to
occupational noise exposure is an issue under continuing debate. The permissible
exposure level of 90 dBA and 5dB exchange rate of the Ammendment are contrasted with the
85 dBA and 3dB exchange rate of the NIOSH criteria document. This presentation will
discuss the scientific approach to identifying action levels and people at risk,
supporting the underlying assumptions of the Hearing Conservation Amendment.
Carl D. Bohl, D.Sc., CIH - Measuring Effective Hearing Conservation Programs -
The provisions of the Hearing Conservation Amendment with some exceptions, provides the
complete framework for protecting workers. Flexibility of the employer to adapt this
framework to its own operations allow this to be accomplished cost-effectively. This
presentation will support the hypothesis that Hearing Conservation Programs, when applied
properly, are a workable solution for the protection of workers from noise-induced hearing
Timothy L. Rink, Ph.D. - Audiometric Testing: An
Eight Year Review
A review of eight years of nearly 1 million audiometric tests conducted in mobile
testing units, physicians' offices, hospitals, occupational health clinics, and in-plant
facilities was performed. The data show a significant decrease in both the number of
noise-induced standard threshold shifts (STS) and persistent threshold shifts (PTS),
supporting the viability of industrial hearing conservation programs and the effectiveness
of the Hearing Conservation Amendment. This presentation will present the findings
of the review and offer strategic ideas of the reasons for the conclusions.
Questioning that the Amendment has accomplished its goals:
Richard R. James, INCE - Hearing
Loss Prevention: A Business Process
Compliance with the regulation does not ensure that people will escape noise induced
hearing loss. Regardless of the sources of the hearing loss, it is likely that the
employer will bear the responsibility for that loss. Therefore, from a business
standpoint, it would behoove an employer to adopt a Hearing Loss Prevention Process.
This presentation will discuss the rationale of a transition away from the Hearing
John R. Franks, Ph.D. - Relationships Among Hearing
Loss Prevention Policies and Audiometric Outcomes
Experiences with successful hearing loss prevention programs have shown the importance
of company policies covering the operation of the program and its integration into other
company initiatives. This presentation will review several case studies to compare
outcomes from different hearing conservation/hearing loss prevention policies.
Thomas H. Simpson, Ph.D. - Audiometric Data and Hearing
Conservation Program Analysis
There are currently no generally accepted methodologies for judging hearing
conservation program (HCP) efficacy through audiometric database analysis. To date,
all efforts to identify reliable and valid audiometric markers of HCP efficacy have been
retrospective, and existing data are insufficient to support HCP success or failure.
Consequently, we cannot judge regulatory impacts that noise control and hearing
protection programs may have had on occupational hearing loss, even though these programs
have been required for almost 30 years. This presentation will summarize problems
and pitfalls associated with audiometric database analysis and suggest possible solutions
to this dilemma.
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