Although some Soldiers work in industrial-based settings, hearing conservation efforts are primarily directed at the civilian workforce.
The components of an effective hearing conservation program include:
• Noise hazard identification — Noise is unwanted sound. Noise distracts, disturbs, and interferes with communication and sleep. It can affect an individual's performance, behavior and hearing. Noise is produced by all mechanical devices including generators, aircraft, or vehicles entering or leaving a work site. A noise hazard identification program describes the frequency of noise surveys, the equipment used, equipment calibration requirements, personnel involved in conducting noise surveys, risk assessment and posting requirements.
• Engineering controls — Engineering controls are defined as any modification or replacement of equipment or related physical change at the noise source or along the transmission path (with the exception of hearing protectors) that reduce the noise levels. Equipment should be maintained in good working order and, if necessary, isolate the noise in order to reduce noise levels at the source and eliminate any harmful health effects. In addition, purchase equipment that offers safe noise limits when economically and technologically feasible.
• Hearing protectors — Hearing protector program details the requirements for use and maintenance, characteristics of protectors and the hearing protection requisition process. The actual performance of hearing protection devices depends on the achieved fit and the noise environment. Selection of the devices should be based on relevance to the mission requirement to include: type and intensity of noise, functional requirements, and compatibility with existing communication equipment.
• Health education — The hearing program manager must provide hearing conservation health education at least annually to all noise-exposed Soldiers and civilians in the Army Hearing Program.
• Monitoring audiometry — Monitoring audiometry detects changes in an individual’s hearing sensitivity. This information identifies individuals who are highly susceptible to noise-induced hearing loss and evaluates the effectiveness of the Hearing Program. All personnel who work and train in noise-hazardous areas with time-weighted average of 85 decibels or greater or exposure to impulse noise of 140 decibels or higher need an annual hearing check. The visit for monitoring audiometry is an opportunity to educate the Soldiers and civilian employees about their hearing status and hearing protection.
• Enforcement — Enforcement of the hearing program ensures that command emphasis of the importance of hearing conservation is in place, program performance standards are followed, compliance measures are followed, and disciplinary action in the event of noncompliance takes place.
• Program evaluation — Each installation’s hearing program is evaluated by both external and internal sources to assess program effectiveness. Direct observation of the program to ensure guidelines and best practices are followed is essential and requires a team effort to include commanders, hearing program managers, industrial hygienist, safety officers, and the Soldiers and civilian employees.
For more information about the Army’s Hearing Conservation Program visit the U.S. Army Public Health Command website at phc.amedd.army.mil/.