Choosing an audiometry provider
Some tips on what to look for when choosing an audiometry provider.
- Bearing in mind there is no legal national standard for this, how are they or their technicians trained? Entirely in-house or a mix of in-house and external provider? What have they done to ensure the people doing the assessments will be competent? The British Society of Audiology has an approved syllabus for the training of technicians so ask them to show this has been followed. I would always look for the company to have sent its employees on a course provided by a third party as well as their own in-house training - it is of much more comfort to know a third party has said the audiometry technician is competent as well as their own employer.
- Will they provide you with all the results or summary data only? Be sure what level of report you want. Personally, you the client are buying the services so I think you should be provided with all the data and that means the classification of result and the full audiograms for each person. The only exception would be if the attendee specifically said they didn't want the employer to have it, which very few ever say. That way if you need to provide it to an insurer you have it, or if you choose a different supplier in the future you have it for ongoing comparison. Several times over the years I've come across audiometry-providing companies using the data as a way to force a client to remain with them by making it extremely difficult for anyone to get hold of the results data. That's frankly a bit shabby and they don't deserve your business.
- Make sure they include the otoscope part - the looky down the ear bit. If they don't do that they aren't doing it properly.
- Ask what they do with the speculae - these are the plastic cone bits which go into the ear when having a look down them with the otoscope. They are single-use unless they are metal and autoclaved between examinations and no external provider ever uses these metal ones. Wiping them down with an alcoholic wipe or something similar and then reusing them is manky, horrible, a disease risk and above all, cheap. If a company is shabby enough to be doing this, for speculae which cost pennies, then you don't want them doing your testing. It's actually rather disgusting that some will reuse single-use speculae with a simple wipe between people.
- Make sure they are interested in giving you the best results possible, including some form of analysis of the results and highlighting of any individuals whom the employer needs to pay particular attention to. This includes 'referrals' where someone with a problem needs to see a GP or a specialist - you can oversee this yourself by sending them to their own GP. If the audiometry company just wants to sell you more services for them overseeing the referrals for you I'd be very picky about going with them. Audiometry is not an excuse to sell more services.
- Ask to see their in-house procedure for conducting a series of hearing tests. If the procedure doesn't include a daily verification check of the audiometer before the first test is done, don't use them. This is a mandatory part of the British Standard governing workplace audiometry and is a part of the L108, and is done to ensure the audiometer is reading correctly on that day, not just when it was last calibrated. If they don't do this then how on earth do they know the audiometer is functioning correctly that day, especially if it is a mobile provider where the equipment is moving about between jobs.
- Same with noise levels in the room or booth in which the testing will take place. As they are moving about between testing locations they should do a basic measurement of the noise levels in the room they are to test in, or in booth if they are testing in a van or trailer. This is important. Without it, how do you know the tests were being done in a quiet enough environment and the attendees could hear the headphone noises rather than other noise going on around them. And if you get a claim a few years down the line, how do you prove the test was done in a suitable environment without the testing person or company holding a record of what the noise levels were on that day. If they don't do this, my advice is to walk away as that's a big chunk of reliability stripped away from the results meaning your money is giving you much less value. They don't have to use a full-on noise assessment meter, but should have something which can say, 'yes, it was about 38dB in there on that day' or whatever the dB value is that they experience.