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Occupational Hearing Conservationist (OHC)

Who is an Occupational Hearing Conservationist?

An occupational hearing conservationist (OHC) is usually the center of a hearing conservation program (HCP). Even though the audiometric testing program must be supervised by an audiologist or physician, the OHC is the person most closely involved with noise-exposed workers and their activities.

OHCs are audiologists, physicians, occupational health nurses, human resources directors, workplace safety officers or any person interested in occupational hearing conservation or appointed by management to perform audiometric testing or enforce HCP compliance. 

OHCs work in a variety of settings. Many are onsite company employees acting as safety personnel or healthcare workers. Others are employed by hearing conservation or occupational health service providers and travel to different companies (eg, mobile van service). OHCs also work in occupational health clinics, government agencies and military installations.

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) Guidance 29 CFR 1910.95(g)(3):

"Audiometric tests shall be performed by a licensed or certified audiologist, otolaryngologist, or other physician, or by a technician who is certified by the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation, or who has satisfactorily demonstrated competence in administering audiometric examinations, obtaining valid audiograms, and properly using, maintaining and checking calibration and proper functioning of the audiometers being used."

Certification training is offered in multiple locations throughout North America. See the OHC Course Search Listings section of our website for locations and dates in your area.

What is a Hearing Conservation Program?

An effective occupational HCP preserves and protects the hearing of employees who work in manufacturing, farms, mines, military bases and other noisy workplaces. An HCP also gives employees the knowledge they need to protect themselves from nonoccupational noise exposure.

According to OSHA, an occupational HCP consists of these elements:

While OSHA provides the minimum standards for hearing conservation, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health provides a practical guide outlining the 8 components of an HCP that are con­sidered to be best practices:

All components are covered in CAOHC-ap­proved courses.

What are the Benefits of an Effective Hearing Conservation Program?

The primary benefit to workers is the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). However, HCPs can also detect hearing losses that may be due to causes other than workplace noise and might otherwise go untreated.

Temporary hearing loss and tinnitus can also be reduced or eliminated, as well as some noise-related safety hazards. Employees are less likely to feel fatigued and annoyed, and the possibility of stress-related illness can also be reduced.

Management's benefits derive from better labor-management relations, improved employee morale and the decreased likelihood of antisocial behavior resulting from annoyance and stress. Less noise and better hearing can lead to greater job satisfaction, productivity and safety.

Studies have shown that HCPs can reduce accident rates, illnesses and lost time. The prevention of NIHL reduced the risk of workers compensation payments and may help contain costs associated with workers compensation insurance.

Reducing noise through engineering controls can have a positive effect—not only by preventing hearing loss but by reducing absenteeism and increasing productivity.