For many years, the Hearing Conservation Program served as the flagship for the prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). This primarily garrison-focused program is instrumental in preventing NIHL mostly in industrial settings. Although some Soldiers work in industrial-based settings, hearing conservation efforts are primarily directed at our civilian workforce.
Hearing Conservation is one of the four components of the Army Hearing Program:
Readiness, Operational, Clinical, Hearing Conservation
Components of a Hearing Conservation Program
Noise Hazard Identification
Noise is unwanted sound. Noise distracts, disturbs, and interferes with communication and sleep. It can affect an individual's performance, behavior and hearing. Noise is produced by all mechanical devices, including generators, aircraft, or vehicles entering or leaving a work site. Noise hazard identification program describes the frequency of noise surveys, the equipment used, equipment calibration requirements, personnel involved in conducting noise surveys, risk assessment and posting requirements.
Posting Noise Hazards Guidelines
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DA Poster 40-501A, OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure Standard and Hearing Conservation Amendment (available through APHC - see Resources below) in all noise hazardous areas. DA Poster 40-501A outlines the requirements of Title 29, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1910.95.
- Post all noise-hazardous areas, equipment and vehicles with appropriate signs and decals. Signs can be purchased from U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, Ft. Leavenworth, KS. Contact information: DSN 552-4805 or COMM (913) 651-7377. Click
here for additional information.
For hearing purposes, engineering controls are defined as any modification or replacement of equipment or related physical change at the noise source or along the transmission path (with the exception of hearing protectors) that reduce the noise levels. Equipment should be maintained in good working order and, if necessary, isolate the noise in order to reduce noise levels at the source and eliminate any harmful health effects. In addition, purchase equipment that offers safe noise limits when economically and technologically feasible.
Typical engineering controls involve:
- Reducing the noise at the source
- Interrupting the noise path (noise barriers or walls)
- Reducing echoes with sound absorbing materials
- Reducing structure borne vibration with vibration mounts or damping materials
- Increasing the distance between the noise source and the operation
Examples of engineering controls include:
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- Moving affected personnel further from the noise
- Using noise shelters
- Using mufflers
Hearing protector program details the requirements for use and maintenance, characteristics of protectors and the hearing protection requisition process. The actual performance of hearing protection devices depends on the achieved fit and the noise environment. Selection of the devices should be based on relevance to the mission requirement to include: type and intensity of noise, functional requirements, and compatibility with existing communication equipment.
Hearing Protection Guidelines
- All personnel working in noise-hazardous areas must have hearing protection with them at all times and use them, when appropriate.
- Available hearing protectors include preformed earplugs, noise muffs, handformed earplugs, non-linear earplugs, noise-attenuating helmets, Tactical Communications and Protective Systems (TCAPS) and custom earplugs when indicated (see
DA Pam 40-501 for additional information, the ST 4-02.501 may be used
for historical context only).
- Preformed earplugs, once fitted, need to be rechecked annually for appropriate signs of deterioration.
- Fit each ear! Some individuals require a different size of earplug for each ear.
- Noise reducing helmets and earmuffs need to be rechecked at least semi-annually for appropriate use and wear.
- All personnel must deploy with a pair of fitted hearing protectors.
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The Hearing Program Manager or designee must provide Hearing Conservation health education at least annually to ALL noise-exposed Soldiers and Civilians in the Army Hearing Program (AHP).
Health education shall include the following topics:
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- The effects of noise on hearing, including the tactical operational ramifications impact of temporary threshold shift (TTS) hearing loss.
- The purpose, advantages, disadvantages, and attenuation of various types of hearing protectors.
- The selection, fit, care, and use of hearing protectors and the importance of hearing protector use during training.
- The purpose and procedures of audiometric evaluations.
- The structure and elements of the AHP.
- The mandatory requirement to wear assigned protective equipment and the administrative actions which may follow for failure to do so.
- The use of hearing protection during noise-hazardous, off-duty activities.
Monitoring audiometry detects changes in an individual's hearing sensitivity. This information identifies individuals who are highly susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss and evaluates the effectiveness of the Hearing Program. All personnel who work and train in noise-hazardous areas with time-weighted average (TWA) of 85 dB or greater or exposure to impulse noise of 140 dBP or higher need an annual hearing check. The visit for Monitoring Audiometry is an opportunity to educate the Soldiers and Civilian employees about their hearing status and hearing protection.
Monitoring audiometry is conducted using the
Defense Occupational and Environmental Health Readiness System (DOEHRS) Hearing Conservation (DOEHRS-HC). The DOEHRS-HC is a product of the Solution Delivery Division (SDD). The DOERHS-HC system collects, maintains, compares and reports hearing readiness, deployment and hearing conservation program data for Department of Defense personnel. Hearing tests conducted in DOEHRS-HC are saved in the local DOEHRS-HC database and are also exported to the DOEHRS Data Repository DOEHRS-HC (DR) to be used for future comparisons. Audiograms administered on a DOEHRS-HC system are stored in this DOEHRS-DR for future reference.
- Must receive a DOEHRS-HC hearing test prior to basic training and just before they separate from the Army.
- Are required to have an annual hearing test when assigned to a table of organization and equipment (TOE) units.
- Have an annual hearing test when filling a Professional Filler System (PROFIS) position.
- Have an annual hearing test when the Soldier is routinely exposed to hazardous noise.
- New civilian personnel with a potential for hazardous noise exposure must receive a reference audiogram as soon as
possible, but not later than 30 days after initial exposure.
- Must receive reference, 90-day, annual, and termination audiograms.
- Receive termination audiograms as part of outprocessing or when a worker is going to stop working in a designated noise-hazardous area.
Results of the first hearing test administered are recorded on Department of Defense (DD) Form 2215 (Reference Audiogram). This is a baseline evaluation that measures how well the individual hears before being exposed to noise. Subsequent hearing tests are recorded on the DD Form 2216 (Hearing Conservation Data). These tests are compared to the baseline (initial or reestablished) hearing test and used to determine if there has been a change in hearing. See
DA PAM 40-501, Army Hearing Program, for additional Monitoring Audiometry Requirements.
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Ensuring that the Hearing Program is effective is a team effort involving Command, Supervisors, Unit Commanders, Hearing Program Managers, Safety Managers, Industrial Hygiene Program Managers (IHPM), Soldiers and Civilian Employees.
Enforcement of the Hearing Program ensures that command emphasis of the importance of hearing conservation is in place, program performance standards are followed, compliance measures are followed, and disciplinary action in the event of noncompliance takes place.
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- The unit commander or supervisor of personnel working in noise hazardous areas should endorse the installation commander's command emphasis letter explaining the importance of the AHP.
- Supervisors or unit commanders must ensure that the following responsibilities are included in the noise-exposed military or civilian employee's performance standards—
- Use of hearing protection, as required
- Attends medical surveillance, as required.
- Supervisors of noise-hazardous areas must—
- Enforce the mandatory use of hearing protectors. Take disciplinary action as appropriate for non-compliance.
- Ensure that the employee reports for scheduled medical examinations.
- Hearing Program Manager will—
- Conduct unannounced inspections of noise-hazardous areas to ensure compliance and enforcement of hearing protection requirements.
- Report inspection results through command channels to the installation commander, the unit commander, the unit HPO, the safety manager, and the Industrial Hygiene Program Manager.
- The IHPM will inspect noise-hazardous areas to ensure compliance with AHP and hearing protector requirements during both announced and unannounced IH surveys. IHPM will identify noise exposed personnel and refer to the installation Hearing Program Manager (HPM).
Each installation's Hearing Program is evaluated by both external and internal sources to assess program effectiveness. Direct observation of the Hearing Program to ensure guidelines and best practices are followed is essential and requires a team effort to include Commanders, Hearing Program Managers, Industrial Hygienist, Safety Officers, the Soldiers and Civilian employees.
The AHP at the APHC conducts installation hearing conservation management consultations. These management consultations provide on-site assistance to the installation Hearing Program Manager. The consultation includes—
- Reviewing the current program status
- Providing on-site assistance
- Discussing recommendations for the seven elements of an Hearing Conservation Program
- DOEHRS-HC consultation visit to review :
- The function and local use of the DOEHRS-HC
- Review of Installation DOEHRS-HC database records
- Assistance to enhance program support, effectiveness, and participation
The DOEHRS-HC allows the Hearing Program Manager to evaluate program participation, quality assurance, and program effectiveness.
The 29 CFR 1960.78, Subpart J, Evaluation of Federal Occupational Safety and Health Programs, requires that an annual self-assessment be performed. Program evaluation requirements are as follows:
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- Use DOEHRS-HC to prepare program participation reports.
- Report the number of employees who are referred to the program, but who do not participate in monitoring audiometry at least quarterly, through the installation medical authority
- Report to the installation commander the number of employees who comply with the program, at least annually
- Generate quality assurance reports using the DOEHRS-HC
- The prevalence of negative STS
Program effectiveness/readiness indicators
- Generate program effectiveness reports using the DOEHRS-HC
- Report local hearing loss prevalence figures through the installation medical authority to the installation commander, at least annually. Data will include:
- Positive STS on annual hearing tests for military personnel
- Positive STS on the second follow-up hearing tests for military personnel (use Daily Report for this data)
- Positive STS on annual hearing tests for civilians.
- Positive STS on the secondary follow-up hearing tests for civilians(use Daily Report for this data)
- Positive STS on annual hearing tests by unit
- Positive STS on the second follow-up hearing tests by unit (use Daily Report for this data)
- Projected military hearing profiles
- Potential civilian hearing loss compensation costs
Enter the DOEHRS-HC Data Repository