Chair's Message - Summer 2009
By Mary M. McDaniel, AuD CCC-A CPS/A
What is the role of the occupational hearing conservationist (OHC)? CAOHC has done a fine job of defining the role of the OHC in terms of what responsibilities the certified OHC may or may not have. If those points have slipped your mind, please review the "Scope of Practice" document for OHC's on the CAOHC website.
The OHC often serves as the "point person" for the hearing loss prevention program. S/he may be responsible for scheduling the annual hearing tests as well as conducting the audiometric tests, including otoscopic inspection of the ear and review of an aural history. OHC's may make decisions about the purchase of hearing protectors after which they will be responsible for the instruction and assessment of the proper fit, use and care of hearing protectors in the workplace to ensure adequate safety measures are followed.
The OHC must have direct contact with the professional supervisor to verify that audiometric tests are appropriately reviewed and recordability decisions are made. Subsequent to the review by the professional supervisor, the OHC may be responsible for counseling, educating and training employees and maintaining the proper records of the program.
Along with the duties the OHC is qualified to perform, CAOHC clearly outlines the responsibilities the OHC is not trained or qualified to perform. Those duties include: diagnosing hearing problems, conducting professional review, making determinations about work-relatedness, and training other OHCs.
With the roles and responsibilities of the certified OHC clearly stated in the scope of practice, I ask the question again; what is the role of the OHC? As a CAOHC course director, I have students whose duties range from managing the hearing conservation program as part of a company's medical surveillance program, to newspaper pressmen trained to only do hearing tests for worker's who missed the mobile van, to medical assistants in neighborhood clinics who do nothing other than pre-placement audiograms. The involvement of the OHC and his/her responsibilities vary greatly in the real world. When you answer the question, consider not only what CAOHC says you can and cannot do, but also your actual job responsibilities and your personal level of involvement with the program. With all the various hats an OHC may wear at his/her place of employment, what portion of the job is actually related to OHC duties?
Why ask the question? I ask because CAOHC is continually working to improve the quality and distinction of CAOHC certification. CAOHC's mission is to promote the conservation of hearing by enhancing the quality of occupational hearing conservation programs. We accomplish this through our relevant and effective educational programs. The Council is currently reviewing the training curriculum for OHCs, for course directors, and for professional supervisors in an effort to ensure that the quality of our programming remains high. A job analysis of the OHC position, with all its variations, will be helpful in establishing the skills and knowledge required to perform the work. CAOHC is committed to preparing OHCs to assume appropriate responsibilities in the hearing conservation program, regardless of the role they play within their current employment.
In the near future, you may be asked to participate in a survey to assess the roles and responsibilities of the OHC. I hope you'll take the time to consider the issues, assess your individual circumstances, and respond accordingly. Our goal is to better align the OHC course curriculum with the day-to-day activities of certified OHCs. CAOHC already maintains a high standard of excellence, but we are not satisfied to let it rest. We want to respond to current trends in the field, maintain a realistic view of the process, and continue to improve our educational programming, in order to live up to our motto . . . CAOHC there is no equal.