Employers must provide hearing protectors to all workers exposed to eight-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dBA or above. This requirement ensures that employees have access to protectors before they experience any hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Products Include:
- Pre-formed or molded earplugs must be individually sized and can be disposable or reusable. Reusable plugs should be cleaned after each use.
- Single-use earplugs are made of foam, silicone rubber or fiberglass wool. They are self-forming and, when properly inserted, they work as well as most molded earplugs.
- Earmuffs require a perfect seal around the ear. Glasses, facial hair, long hair or facial movements such as chewing may reduce the protective value of earmuffs.
Employees must wear hearing protectors:
- If for any period exceeding 6 months from the time they are first exposed to 8-hour TWA noise levels of 85 dBA or
above,until they receive their baseline audiograms.
- If baseline tests are delayed due to mobile test van scheduling.
- If they have incurred standard threshold shifts that demonstrate they are susceptible to noise.
- If they are exposed to noise over the permissible exposure limit of 90 dBA over an 8-hour TWA.
Employers must provide employees with a selection of at least one variety of hearing plug and one variety of hearing muff. Employees should decide, with the help of a person trained to fit hearing protectors, which size and type protector is most suitable for the working environment. The protector selected should be comfortable to wear and offer sufficient protection to prevent hearing loss. Hearing protectors must adequately reduce the noise level for each employee’s work environment.
The employer must reevaluate the suitability of the employee’s hearing protector whenever a change in working conditions may make it inadequate.
If workplace noise levels increase, employers must give employees more effective protectors. The protector must reduce employee exposures to at least 90 dBA and to 85 dBA when an STS already has occurred in the worker’s hearing. Employers must show employees how to use and care for their protectors and supervise them on the job to ensure that they continue to wear them correctly.