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FAQs on preventing work related hearing loss ....


Hearing loss frequently asked questions.

The following FAQs are the ones most asked by people about hearing loss. The Links section also contains several consumer-based hearing health-care web sites.

What is an audiologist?

Audiologists are the only professionals who are university trained and licensed to identify, evaluate, diagnose, and treat audiologic disorders of hearing. Audiologists may practice in Private Audiology Offices, Hospitals, Medical Practices, Universities, Public Schools, Private and Public Agencies.

All individuals with suspected hearing loss require audiological evaluation to determine the type, degree, and cause of the hearing impairment. Insurance companies and managed care organizations are realizing that efficient cost-effective hearing health care requires that primary care physicians refer patients directly to audiologists to determine whether rehabilitation or medical/surgical treatment is indicated. Insurance companies recognize that only 20% of all individuals with hearing loss require medical or surgical treatment for their hearing loss. Rehabilitation treatment consists primarily of design, selection and fitting of hearing aids and/or assistive listening devices. These services are provided directly by audiologists.

Services provided by audiologists include:

  • Comprehensive Audiological Evaluations including tests of hearing sensitivity, speech understanding, middle ear function, inner ear and auditory nerve function.
  • Diagnostic Tests for Balance/Dizziness Disorders.
  • Auditory Processing Evaluations for Children and Adults.
  • Design, selection and fitting of hearing instruments and/or assistive listening devices.
  • Design, selection, installation and monitoring of classroom amplification systems.
  • Hearing conservation programs for industry.
  • Rehabilitation therapy for hearing disorders which might include strategies to improve aided and unaided hearing, speech-reading (including lip- reading) and sign language.
  • Rehabilitation for Auditory Processing Disorders.
  • Rehabilitation for Vestibular (balance) Disorders.

The human ear provides the basics for recognizing sound waves

How do we hear and what  are the ear parts?

The ear has three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

  1. The outer ear includes the visible portion of the ear and the ear canal. Sound waves travel through these two areas of the outer ear.

  2. The middle ear includes the eardrum (the tympanic membrane) and three small bones (ossicles). The movement of the tympanic membrane makes the ossicles vibrate.

  3. The inner ear includes a snail-shaped fluid-filled cochlea, which contains thousands of sound receptors (hair cells). The inner ear is responsible for changing the sound vibrations into electrical signals. The electrical signals are picked up by the hearing (acoustic) nerve.  The acoustic nerve sends the sound to the brain.

When an adult or child has a hearing loss, one or more of these parts are not working in the usual way. In order to fully test hearing, all parts of the ear, the acoustic nerve, and the brain pathways that are involved in hearing must be tested for proper functioning.

Why should I see an audiologist?

Audiologists hold a master’s, research doctoral (Ph.D.) or clinical doctoral (Au.D.) degree from an accredited university with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment, and rehabilitation of persons with hearing impairments. In all States audiologists are licensed to practice audiology by the State's Medical Board of Examiners. Audiologists are required to complete a full-time professional experience year and pass a demanding national comprehensive examination following completion of their master’s or doctoral program. Additionally, they are required to obtain 10 continuing education hours per year to maintain their license. By virtue of their graduate education, professional certification, and licensure, audiologists are the most qualified professionals to perform hearing tests, dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices, provide rehabilitation services and refer patients for medical treatment. sources to locate an audiologist: American Academy of Audiology -Academy of Dispensing Audiologists -Ohio Academy of Audiology - Illinois Academy of Audiology.

How do I know if I have a hearing loss?

The only precise way to determine if you have a hearing loss is to have your hearing evaluated. There are a series of simple questions you can ask yourself to confirm you are having hearing difficulties: Do you often ask people to repeat what they have said? Do you need to turn the television or radio louder than others around you? Do you have trouble hearing on the telephone? Do people seem to mumble? Do you have difficulty listening to conversation when in a restaurant or noisy listening environment? If you answer yes to one or more of these questions it may be time to have your hearing tested.

What is a Audiogram?? The results of hearing tests are recorded on a chart called an audiogram. An audiogram is a graph with red O’s, representing the right ear and blue X’s indicating the left. Marks near the top (between 0- 25 decibels) of the graph are an indication of better hearing while marks further down the graph denote worse hearing. Located across the top or bottom of the audiogram are frequency numbers ranging from 125 Hz, a very low tone, to 8000 Hz, a very high tone.

Along the side the graph a series of decibel (dB) numbers indicate loudness. Very soft sounds are at the top (-10 or 0 dB) and loud sounds (110 db) are located at the bottom. Zero dB does not mean that there is no sound. This level is merely the softest sound a person with normal hearing ability can perceive 50% of the time. A normal conversation usually occurs at about 65 dB on the decibel scale.

Looking at your audiogram you can tell which ear you hear better with, as well as how mild or severe your hearing loss is. You can also determine the frequencies at which you hear best and worst.

What are pure tone tests?   A device called an audiometer electronically generates "pure tones" of sound which vary in tone and volume. This test helps the audiologist to determine the threshold at which a patient hears different frequencies. Each ear is tested individually. You will indicate when you hear a tone by raising your hand or pressing a button, depending upon the type of audiometer used.


What is noise? .. and how much can your hearing handle?

A simple definition of noise is "unwanted sound". What is noise to one person is just entertainment to another. From a legal standpoint the definition of noise is different. Legally noise is exposure to sounds exceeding an average of 90 dB of noise for eight hours per day. A TWA (time weighted average) of 90 dB equals the current maximum legal noise exposure (in the US) for an individual without an existing hearing damage. The exposure limit for someone with an existing hearing damage is 85 dB. The exposure level is currently being reviewed and NIOSH is recommending that the TWA is reduced to 85 dB for all workers.

The decibel scale is a logarithmic scale, which means that the scale is not linear, and we really have a hard time relating to the numbers. Every three dB represents a doubling of the sound level, and every 10 dB represents a tenfold increase in sound intensity. Add two machines making 90 dB each, and the result is 93 dB.

Noise erodes the small hair cells inside the cochlea of the human hearing organ. It is a very gradual process, and not a very noticeable one in the early stages. The damage that occurs on a daily basis is at first a temporary hearing damage. With repeated noise exposure the temporary damage turns into a permanent damage. At this stage the damage is irreversible.

How can you prevent this from happening to you or your employees? Noise control measures should come first. Eliminate or reduce the noise whenever possible. When all measures have been taken to improve the environment, hearing protection offers another convenient alternative. An average hearing protector will reduce noise with 20 to 29 dB. Considering that every 3 dB cuts the noise in half, you can get a lot of protection from an ear muff or ear plug. But hearing protection has to be used correctly or they will lose a great proportion of their effectiveness.

AAC Hearing Help Library -You can always stop here for the most current consumer information about hearing, hearing loss, hearing aids, and other audiology related areas. Get some general information by browsing this list of articles from this site. The Audiology Awareness Campaign is proud to offer the internet's most complete list of brochures in these areas. All of the articles are written in non-technical language and are aimed at providing information in an easy-to-understand manner.


What is Tinnitus? Tinnitus is a ringing, buzzing, hissing or other head noise that does not come from an external source.

What is the cause of tinnitus?

One of the most common causes is exposure to loud noise. Workplace noise can cause hearing loss and tinnitus. If those exposed to loud sound do not wear proper hearing protection devices, they may find they gradually lose their hearing and suffer from tinnitus. Excessively loud sound can also be from music, power tools and chain saws, gunfire, explosives, and motorcycles.

Tinnitus may only be an annoyance for some people; however, for others it is a chronic condition, which can cause sleeplessness and lack of concentration. This can be a serious problem that can be avoided by proper precaution. A person who tells a physician about tinnitus may be told to “Go home and live with it.” This is possible for some, but others need treatment. Feeling there is no cure for tinnitus can turn a benign symptom into a feeling of helplessness and despair. Negative counseling which provides no hope can actually increase the patient’s perception of tinnitus as he feels it will go on forever, may get worse and cannot be effectively treated.

There is help! There is a national organization dedicated to silencing tinnitus. Any person suffering from tinnitus should con tact the American Tinnitus Association (ATA) at 1-800-634-8978. They will be told about tinnitus clinics throughout the United States that work with patients in alleviating tinnitus. Self-help groups sponsored by the ATA provide information and support. American Tinnitus Association has their materials available for the worker who says that tinnitus is causing distress, sleeplessness and affecting his or her work. Provide the employee with ATA’ s website information, http://www.ata.org. The information on this site is reliable so the individual is not reading anecdotal information from unknown sources.

We offer mobile lab hearing tests at plant locations in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana by appointment only. Call 800 231-1006 for scheduling a on site hearing test meeting all OSHA requirements and HR annual audio test records for your at risk employees.
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