New starter hearing testing

A question which often comes up is audiometry for new starters and how soon they should be given a hearing test when they start working for an employer.

Before diving into it, there is an important principle which is often over-looked but which forms the absolute foundation of when to test new starters:

If you have a noise risk at work, have done a noise assessment, are providing hearing protection which has been assessed as suitable, and the use of that hearing protection is monitored and enforced, then new starters are not at anything remotely approaching a risk of developing hearing loss in the first weeks, months or even year of their employment.

Say you have a noise risk of 95 dB(A) and have issued hearing protection which you know reduces the actual exposure to 75 dB(A), and it’s use is monitored and enforced and random compliance checks find it to be good, then what is the risk? It is approaching zero, so why any urgency in getting a new starter tested immediately? The the risk of the employer damaging their hearing in the first months or even year of employment is so vanishingly small as to be irrelevant. 

Given that, could someone develop hearing loss in the first three months say of their employment? Sure, they could, but they could win the lottery on a Saturday night then get struck by lightning and killed on Sunday as they go out to celebrate. All are possible, but all are highly unlikely.

The cost of getting a visiting service in to do one or two audiometric tests is huge so it is just not a reasonably practicable step to take - the risk is not remotely proportional to the cost, as much as we would like to say otherwise as it would be loads of extra easy work for us.

Some steps to manage new starter audiometry in small companies

This is aimed at companies who may have one or two new starters per quarter - if you have dozens then we are happy to come and do smaller batches of tests on either a regular basis or as-needs through the year.

  1. Our advice always defaults back to: As per above, make sure hearing protection is worn and monitored and then just roll them into the next batch of hearing tests whenever that is due. If you have pretty much eliminated the risk via the protective measures then it doesn’t matter if it is a week from now or eleven months from now. This is the most reasonably practicable approach.

  2. If you want them testing faster, speak to us. We can give you a price to come and do single or small numbers of tests (fewer than four or five). Rather than doing one or two every month, consider grouping them into maybe a quarterly or six-monthly session, depending on your numbers, if you don’t want to wait a complete year.

  3. Alternatively, let us know about them (up to a max of five) and we will try and pop in when we are passing rather than doing it as a specific job. The benefit of that way is that we can do it at a smaller cost, but the disadvantage is that when we do it is entirely dependent on what other bookings we get in the area and whether we are passing during your working hours - depending on your location that could be next week or could be six months from now, or even not until your next scheduled batch are due anyway. This can work though for companies who are not in the more far-flung corners of the country, but only for small numbers or up to four or five in a year.

  4. As another option, while it is not practicable to send all your employees off-site for a hearing test, it is fine to send a new starter, so send them to a local High Street provider, such as Specsavers or Boots, and get a test done there. Before doing it explain to the employee why it is being done and ask for their permission to send the result to us. If you then send it to us we will look at it, apply any HSE classifications, and also add it to the bank of results for comparative testing in the next scheduled visit. We do not charge for that.