Workplace audiometry standards
For the non-specialist, audiometric testing can seem like a confusing minefield of nonsense. This is a simple breakdown, covering what is the mandatory minimum, and what extras we include as standard in our on-site hearing testing.
When we say an audiometry test is ‘compliant’, what do we mean?
This means that the hearing test has to meet the requirements of two standards:
BS EN ISO 8253-1:2010 - British Standard for Pure Tone Audiometry
The standards set out by the HSE in L108 - Controlling Noise at Work
The British Standard (or BSA standard) sets out how hearing tests must be done, while the HSE’s standard in L108 then says how the results must be analysed. The HSE’s standards are about what we do with the data from the results, while the British Standard says how we get those results.
There is also a third standard, the British Society of Audiology Surveillance Audiometry 2017 standard, but this is based on the British Standard and pulls together the parts which specifically apply to audiometric testing done for health screening. Meeting the British Standard therefore means this one is also met.
Which standard must be complied with for audiometric testing at work?
Both the British Standard (and therefore the BSA standard too) and the HSE’s interpretation rules.
If testing does not meet both of these then problems are likely to arise in the future, both from an enforcement stance but also from an insurance perspective if trying to defend a claim.
It is important that any audiometric testing at work meets at least all the mandatory elements as a minimum. Skipping one, e.g. no otoscopic examination or no on-site daily verification test of the equipment means all test results are immediately suspect and likely to be dismissed in things like defending an insurance claim, or even proving to enforcement authorities that the hearing testing was valid.
A quick summary of the key elements
Ask any provider these questions:
Do you test the accuracy of the equipment on-site and in-situ every day, by physically listening to it?
Do you do an otoscopic examination of the ear - the visual examination part?
Do you insist the technician puts the headphones on the attendee?
Do you change the testing method for people with specific hearing issues?
If the answer is ‘no’ to any of these then the audiometric testing service is not compliant and should not be used.
The compliant-audiometry checklist
If you are booking any form of workplace audiometry from any provider, ensure they are meeting all the elements marked mandatory as a minimum.
|Component of screening audiometry||Mandatory for compliant testing||Included in our testing|
|Provide schedule of appointments for the hearing testing||✔︎|
|Person administering the tests must have undergone some relevant training and be qualified||✔︎||✔︎|
|Audiometer and headset must be within annual calibration||✔︎||✔︎|
|Measure the noise levels in the testing area (booth) to prove it was suitable - for a visiting service, this means measure and record it for every job.||✔︎||✔︎|
|Verification check of audiometer to identify faults or interference - by a technician who knows what to listen for and who can identify faults, must be done in-situ before testing||✔︎||✔︎|
|Health history reviewed by trained technician||✔︎||✔︎|
|Otoscopic visual examination of ears to check their physical health and suitability for testing||✔︎||✔︎|
|Attendees remove hats, glasses, hearing aids, etc.||✔︎||✔︎|
|Technician puts headphones on (attendees must not put the headphones on themselves - the testing standards are very specific on this)||✔︎||✔︎|
|Trial at 1kHz to confirm the attendee understands the instructions and responds properly||✔︎||✔︎|
|Test the 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 kHz frequencies||✔︎||✔︎|
|Test the 500hz and 8kHz bracketing frequencies for superior data and diagnosis||✔︎|
|Technician monitors external noise and will pause, stop or restart the audiometric test as needed.||✔︎||✔︎|
|Technician will not just accept the computer's result but will retest frequencies which look out of place or which are inconsistent||✔︎|
|Technician looks at how they achieved the result (were they sure or hesitant, etc) as well as the result itself when considering the outcome||✔︎|
|Test includes comparison to older results to check for unusual rates of deterioration.||✔︎||✔︎|
|Technician liaises with client to keep them up to date on no-shows, etc as the session goes on - makes sure the client doesn't only discover no-shows until it is too late||✔︎|
|Results must include age and gender of attendees||✔︎||✔︎|
|Results categorised in accordance with HSE's specification in L108||✔︎||✔︎|
|Referrals made as needed to attendee's GP / specialist||✔︎||✔︎|
|Full report provided to the client including ALL results||✔︎|
|Technician recommends which results employer should monitor as a potential work impact and which can be left to the attendee as the referral is primarily for their own health||✔︎|
|Notify client when future audiometric tests are coming due to minimise the ongoing management||✔︎|