Audiometry refresher training

Workplace audiometry is something of a poorly-defined subject area with training requirements being rather woolly, especially when it comes to ongoing refresher training and education for people undertaking hearing tests at work. A few years ago I came across this very issue with my own employees in my previous company and couldn't find any refresher training which looked even halfway-decent, so I designed my own. That developed over time to become a refresher course delivered all over the UK, from occupational health teams in Transport for London and Diageo to independent occupational health consultancies and even groups of GPs.

Multiple trace audiogram.png

The course is aimed at refreshing the knowledge of people who have been previously trained in audiometric screening and who have been conducting hearing tests at work. Attendees are those who do hearing tests regularly but did their initial training a long time ago, or those who are qualified but who who may have not done any hearing tests for a while and are a little rusty.

To be clear, this is not a course for those looking to become qualified in workplace audiometry and for that I recommend Amplivox. Nor is it a course looking to teach attendees how to physically use their audiometer - there are many styles out there and covering every one of them in a course would be impossible. Besides, the physical operation of the audiometer is the easy bit and this course focuses on all the supporting knowledge needed to arrange, complete and interpret a hearing test.

Audiometry refresher course outline

This is a five to six hour course, aimed at up to 15 to 20 attendees max.

Opening introduction

The course kicks off with a review of some of the basics of noise. This sounds a bit like teaching a dog how to bark but without fail it always ends up being one of the areas attendees spend quite a while discussing. As I am coming at it from a background of both health and safety and occupational health, this introduction often covers the supporting information in more depth than a previous purely occupational health course has done as it looks at both the noise risk area as well as the occupational health elements. This can be very useful in giving occupational health people the knowledge to go to their health and safety people and ask specific and informed questions about noise risks which can help them a lot when reviewing employees.

Effect of noise on the ear

Again, this is a key part which always proves useful, even when I presented it to a group of GPs. This includes an audio demonstration of what noise induced hearing loss sounds like where the filters on a piece of music have been developed to match a series of audiograms. This means the occupational health people attending can actually hear the difference the various audiograms make, often for the first time. 

Arranging an audiometry programme

L108 Controlling Noise at Work has some very specific steps which should be in place for arranging an audiometry programme, such as who to test, what to do with people who wear hearing aids, etc. 

Conducting a hearing test

This is done with reference to the British Standard 'Acoustics - Audiometric Test Methods. Part 1 Pure-tone air and bone conduction audiometry', as thrilling a read as you can ever hope to come across, as this is the document to which, along with L108, all workplace hearing tests should be compliant with. I have yet to train a group of people who haven't suddenly looked a little concerned at this point and said quietly to their co-attendees 'we don't do that bit, oops' to at least one part of it. This section also looks at the common problems you may come across in hearing tests such as non-compliant attendees, background noises, acceptable noise levels in the testing room, the pre-test questionnaire, use of the otoscope, directing an attendee how to do the test, etc. 

British Standard For Hearing tests

Interpretation of audiometry results

You've done the test so this section looks at the typical results, how to read them, what you can interpret from them and importantly, what you cannot interpret from them. Loads of example results covering everything from normal hearing to specific injuries and diseases.

Reporting and confidentiality

There is no point doing the tests if you can't do anything with the data so this part looks at internal reporting, or reporting to clients for consultancies, referrals, confidentiality issues, etc.

Hearing protection

A quick review of the types of PPE on the market, strengths and weaknesses so people attending the course can advise audiometry attendees who may be experiencing problems with their hearing protection.

Problems during testing

One thing is guaranteed with audiometry and this is that at some point, one part or another of your equipment is going to die on you mid test. This looks at the most common failure areas, how to recognise it happening and what you can do to keep things moving along.

Other gubbins

  1. If the client wishes, a written test can be included in this course.
  2. All attendees receive an attendance certificate and the client will receive a company one for their records.
  3. Courses are delivered exclusively on client sites - no 'open' courses I'm afraid.
  4. And just to repeat, this is not a course for people looking to become newly qualified in workplace audiometry or for people looking for advice on how to physically operate their own particular audiometer. For the latter, the manufacturer or supplier of your equipment would be the best place to ask for that.