Linda S. Frye, MPH RN COHN-S
CAOHC Representative of the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses
Editors Note: Linda Frye as new Chair of the CAOHC OHC Committee will author the OHC Corner for the UPDATE. Linda has served as faculty on CAOHC OHC courses and has been actively involved with hearing conservation programs in the workplace.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates approximately 30 million American workers experience exposures that may be hazardous to their hearing. It is often a challenge as an Occupational Hearing Conservationist (OHC) to convey the importance of prevention in the workplace to managers and employees. We perhaps can be more effective if training is ongoing and consists of a variety of presentation techniques. Personalizing the cost of hearing loss to the employee in terms of not being able to communicate with their children, enjoy music or conversation at a social gathering may be beneficial. Not only is it the law, but more importantly, hearing is one of the senses that adds to the quality of our life. We must make every effort to promote hearing conservation in the workplace, and at home.
When considering what to include in your training program, one issue related to hearing conservation which may warrant attention in your workplace relates to personal hygiene and associated health related issues. The following common sense approaches may be beneficial:
Instruct the employee to keep hands clean and dry when inserting ear plugs. Moisture and dirt may increase risk of infection.
The employee should wash reusable ear plugs with soap and water daily or follow the manufacturers instructions if different. Allow plugs to dry thoroughly before reinserting.
Employee involvement is a vital part of any hearing conservation program. By working together we can prevent hearing loss.
Authors note: The goal of the OHC Corner is to assist in meeting the ongoing needs of those working with employee clients on a regular basis. If you have questions, please forward them to the CAOHC office (address on back page). Every effort will be made to respond to your concerns in future issues of the UPDATE.