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earplug-testing-hearing injury

Fit for Hearing Protection with Earplug Testing

By Dennis A. Colucci, AuD, MA



In industry, the goal for safety and health is to eliminate all accidents, keep employees working to their potential, and avoid debilitating long-term injuries or loss of life. In occupational audiology, this objective means avoiding hearing loss and the exacerbation of central presbycusis’ potential long-term effects as employees age.


Working as part of a team, the audiologist evaluates standard threshold shift (STS) cases by reviewing dosimetry measures of time-weighted average (TWA) and peak values for comparison against the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) permissible exposure limits (Permissible Exposure Limits).


While the TWA is a useful tool, the OSHA permissible exposure rules were negotiated as a political compromise among stakeholders. The law leaves a one percent risk factor for acquiring hearing loss at 80 dBA, three percent at 85 dBA, and eight percent to 11 percent at 90 dBA (Dobie RA. Medical–Legal Evaluation of Hearing Loss. 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Singular Publishing Group; 2001:186).

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