Audiometric testing booths

A lot of companies looking to undertake their audiometric testing programme in-house wonder what exactly is needed to set the process up, and do they need to have an audiometry booth in which to test people.

What are audiometric testing booths?

audiometry booth.jpg

For the blessedly uninitiated, an audiometry booth is basically a big sound-reducing box into which you place your hapless victim and in which they complete the audiometric test itself. Audiometry booths have several common features and usually have a window so the technician can see what's going on, a bank of cable sockets outside and inside into which the audiometer cables and headphones are plugged, a seat, a light and a ventilation fan. Do not be fooled by the ventilation fan though as on a hot sunny day an audiometry booth is still the preferred sweat-treatment torture device for the evil guards in Guantanamo. And, from my own experience many times, as an extra pleasure for the technician, attendees often see the booth as a separate mini room, relax and then 'drop one', which is then extracted by the fan to give the technician the full fetid glory of it as you work. Booths are nice!

Are audiometric test booths necessary? 

If you are looking at setting up your own audiometric screening process there is a nice clear answer to this - no.

 British Standard for pure tone audiometry

British Standard for pure tone audiometry

This is the British Standard governing the type of hearing tests done in workplace audiometry programmes and it sets out exactly what a hearing test should contain and how it should be done. It does not specify that an audiometry booth must be used for the audiometric tests. It sets out the environmental conditions in which hearing tests should be done but makes no provision at all that this must be done using an audiometry booth. 

And mobile audiometric screening units? 

Mobile audiometry units with fitted booths have their uses. The reasoning for this is:

  1. If you have no quiet area inside the building (meeting rooms, spare office, medical room, etc) then a mobile unit parked outside can be a great solution with the booth providing additional noise protection.
     
  2. If you have a sprawling site where the offices are to one side and far away then a mobile unit parked in the middle of the site can reduce the amount of time people spend going to and from their hearing test, or it can move about the site to take the testing location to them.
     
  3. Testing in an office or meeting room is perfectly fine in most companies, but there is often no waiting area for people to wait and complete a pre-test hearing health questionnaire.
     
  4. And from our side of it, in a mobile audiometric testing unit everything is set up exactly how we need it to be super-slick, or as super slick as we can be any way, meaning the screening process flows well and we can process larger numbers of people more easily.

The negative sides of mobile audiometric testing units.

 The quietest place on Earth, Orfield Laboratories.

The quietest place on Earth, Orfield Laboratories.

It is important to understand that there is no such thing as a 'sound-proof booth' or 'sound-proof material'. Even the quietest place on earth in the photo here still has some sound leakage into it. I have previously used mobile audiometric screening units built out of a material which had a foam section within the walls and roof, and then inside it was a booth as well, but even that couldn't create a silent environment in which to test. The issue is that you often found yourself placed in car parks where cars would drive past constantly, HGVs would pass nearby and the low rumble from that is almost impossible to stop, reversing beepers, people talking as they walked past, air vents and air conditioning units roaring, and so on.

This isn't a problem though as a good audiometry technician can work around inconsistent noises to make sure the audiometry results are rock-solid, but the process can give the same results if it had been done at a desk in a quiet meeting room.