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A personal approach to hearing conservation: the key to effective second-level noise control

RJ Steenkamp


The English term “boilermaker's deafness” was often used during the 1700
and 1800s. It referred to high-frequency sensori-neural hearing loss found in workers exposed to high levels of noise intensity. Second-level noise control relates to hearing conservation programmes (HCPs) and hearing protection (as well as hearing protection devices, known as HPDs). First-level noise control involves using modern engineering to quieten machines. Effective secondlevel noise control (hearing conservation) is required in the presence of noise. This article focuses on HPD trends, personal hearing protection and personal hearing conservation. Statistics gathered over the years have indicated that
HCPs were and still are inadequate, and the assumption that workers are well-protected is a dangerous one. Despite all the HCP models and HPD types, noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) compensation statistics are still incredibly high. The multidimensionality of the problem necessitates a more personal and individualised approach to hearing conservation. This article reports on a study of HPD and HCP trends based on a questionnaire survey conducted with 55 specialist safety, health and environmental (SHE) managers in industry.
The article describes a new paradigm of personal (custom-made) hearing conservation based on individual risk profiles, personal hearing protection, and higher HPD/HCP standards to prevent further spread of the irreversible and incurable NIHL pandemic.

Keywords: hearing conservation, hearing protection, noise control, noice-induced hearing loss, personal protection equipment

African Safety Promotion Vol. 6 (2) 2008: pp. 42-62