Hearing Conservation & Noise Exposure
Work-related hearing loss is a critical health and safety issue. Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable, but once acquired it is permanent and irreversible. Therefore, preventative measures have been taken by RIT to ensure the protection of employees and their hearing. RIT has developed a Noise Exposure and Hearing Conservation Program in order to ensure that faculty, staff, and students are protected from noise overexposure. Hearing protection is required in noise zones and optional in areas that are noisy, but do not meet the noise zone criteria.
The RIT Noise Exposure and Hearing Conservation Program includes: assessments of noisy areas; engineering controls; audiometric monitoring for workers exposed to 85 or more decibels (dBA) as an 8-hour average; appropriate use of hearing protectors; worker education; recordkeeping, and program evaluation. These elements also apply for areas that have impact noise of 140 or more dBA.
Eliminating hazardous noise from the workplace through engineering controls (e.g. installing a muffler or building an acoustic barrier) is the most effective way to prevent noise-induced hearing loss. Hearing protectors such as ear plugs or ear muffs should be used when it is not feasible to reduce noise to a safe level. Hearing protection is required for employees working in established noise zones across campus. Signs are posted to identify known noise zones, when feasible.
The following may indicate that the noise level in your area may be an issue:
- You have to raise your voice to talk to someone who is an arm's length away.
- Your ears are ringing or sounds seem dull or flat after leaving a noisy place.
Contact Environmental Health and Safety to conduct a noise assessment of your area/operation if you are concerned.
There are certain requirements that RIT must follow in order to ensure the safety of workers in noise zones. When RIT employees work in a designated noise zone, the following apply:
- Baseline audiograms must be conducted within 6 month of starting to work in the noise zone. If this is not feasible, hearing protection is required until the baseline exam can be obtained;
- Annual audiograms are conducted for as long as employees continue to work in noise zones. Audiograms are also required for RIT temporary summer employees;
- Hearing protection must be available and used properly; and
- Annual training when employees are part of a noise zone, which is specified in the training requirements section below.
Click on the “annual audiogram process” link for details on the process for employees used during the academic year. For the summer months, the summer audiogram process is followed.
All RIT employees who are required to wear hearing protection will be provided training in order to acquire the understanding, knowledge, and skills necessary for the safe performance of their duties.
Training shall be provided to each affected RIT employee before they first wear hearing protectors/work in an established noise zone. Annual refresher training is required for each employee who continues to use hearing protection while in a noise zone.
The training content includes but is not limited to:
- The effects of noise on hearing;
- Why hearing protection is necessary and how improper fit, usage, storage, or maintenance can compromise the protective effect of the equipment;
- What the limitations and capabilities of hearing protectors are including attenuation of various types of protectors;
- The purpose of audiometric testing and explanation of the test procedures; and
- Information about RIT's Noise Exposure & Hearing Conservation Program.
The Noise Exposure & Hearing Conservation protection training is available on-line (link below). Training can also be provided in person through the RIT EH&S Department.
Contact the RIT Environmental Health & Safety Department with any questions at (585) 475-7092.