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Hearing Conservation Fact Sheet


Noise levels capable of causing permanent damage to hearing can be generated by a wide variety of sources including construction, machinery, steam generation, concerts and heavy equipment. Employers have a responsibility to determine where hazardous noise exposures may exist, and take steps to protect affected employees.

Applicable University Policy

Hearing Conservation Program

Applicable Regulations

29 CFR 1910.95 - OSHA Occupational Noise Exposure

Summary of Requirements


  • Employers are required to monitor noise levels to identify employees that may be routinely exposed to noise at or above an 8-hour Time-Weighted Average (TWA) of 85 decibels (dB). This noise level is referred to as the Action Level. Typical conditions that would suggest the possibility of overexposure include employee complaints, indications that an employee's hearing capability is diminishing, or noise conditions that make normal conversation difficult. Additional monitoring must be performed if there are significant changes in machinery, controls or processes that may increase noise levels.
  • Hearing protective devices must be available to all workers exposed to noise levels at or above the Action Level. Hearing protective devices must be worn by the following employees exposed to an 8-hour average noise level at or above 85 dB.


  • Hearing protection must attenuate employee exposure below 85dB TWA.


  • Affected employees are entitled to observe monitoring procedures, and they must be notified of exposure monitoring if levels are measured at or above 85 dB. The employer must make a copy of OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.95 available to employees and post a copy in the workplace.


  • A baseline audiogram (hearing test) must be provided to employees whose 8-hr TWA noise exposure meets or exceeds the Action Level. This baseline testing must be performed within 6 months of the employee's first exposure to noise at or above the Action Level. Annual audiograms must be performed for each employee exposed at or above the Action Level to monitor changes in hearing ability. Annual audiograms are compared to initial baseline levels to identify hearing loss (i.e., Standard Threshold Shift).
    • If a Standard Threshold Shift is identified, employees must be fit or refitted with hearing protection adequate to attenuate noise levels below the Action Level. Employees must be notified of a Standard Threshold Shift within 21 days of its determination.
    • Employers must supervise the correct use of hearing protection.


Employees exposed to noise levels at or above the Action Level must be trained at least annually about:

  • The effects of noise on hearing;
  • The purpose of hearing protection;
  • The advantages, disadvantages and attenuation of various types of hearing protection;
  • Instructions on the selection, fitting, use and care of hearing protection; and
  • The purpose and procedures of audiometric testing.


Noise exposure measurements must be maintained for two years. Records of audiometric tests must be maintained for the duration of employment of affected employees.

University Resources

Department of Environmental Safety, Sustainability and Risk (301) 405-3960
   (noise measurements, training, dosimetry)
ESSR Fax No.    (301) 314-9294
University Health Center - Occupational Health (301) 314-8172
   (audiometric testing)
ESSR Website:

Written 5/98
Revised 4/05

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