How often is hearing screening required?
The HSE L108 Guidance state that an initial baseline hearing test should be conducted. The schedule of audiometric testing should include annual tests for the first two years of exposure and thereafter a test once every three years. More frequent testing may be required if significant changes in hearing level are detected or the risk of hearing damage has increased. As a quality control measure, it would be advisable to repeat any audiogram which showed a difference from the previous result of more than 10 dB at any frequency.
For the majority of workplaces where employees are regularly exposed to excessive noise and to ensure Noise Induced Hearing loss is detected we advise annual hearing tests to protect both the employee and employer.
What does the HSE categorisation mean? and How is it worked out?
HearTestTM automatically categorises each complete hearing test in accordance with the HSE categorisation scheme. The specific categorisation is dependant on your age and sex and provides an indication of your hearing ability and assists in understanding if Noise Induced Hearing Loss has occured. THe categories are as follows:
- Category 1 - Acceptable Hearing
- Category 2 - Mild Hearing Loss
- Category 3 - Significant Hearing Loss or New Progressive NIHL
- Category 4 - Rapid Hearing Loss
Do I require specialist training to use HearTestTM?
No. The equipment has been designed with the end-user in mind and the interface is simple to use. You do not need any audiology or healthcare training to use HearTestTM and this can be used easily with basic instruction. Guidance is provided to ensure the environment where the testing is conducted is suitable, best practice on applying headphone correctly and how to use the equipment including troubleshooting. The user simply inputs their personal details and answers the questions on hearing, once this is complete, they are presented with a 'Start' button which commences the test and the user simply responds to the tones by hitting the only button on the screen.
Is it OK to not have someone administering HearTestTM?
HearTestTM is an automated process and does not required a human to administer it. In essence it is administering itself. This is the same as a traditional audiometer which has an automated setting where the administer presses the "Start" button and the audiometer completes the test in its entirity. The key things that do need checking by the designated person in charge of the testing are that Headphones are put on correctly. Each patient being shown the equipment must follow the correct process to correctly position the headphones. e.g. ensuring hair is kept clear, glasses or large ear rings are removed etc.
How do we know the equipment is working correctly? Do we do Verification Checks?
Prior to equipment being shipped a verification test is conducted by an experienced user with good hearing to ensure the equipment is working correctly. The equipment is also calibrated to ISO standards by an independent calibration laboratory. When the equipment is returned the same verification test is conducted to ensure that the equipment has been correctly operational for the duration of the time on your site.
How reliable are the test results? Can the test be manipulated?
Traditional audiometry relies on the audiometric technician administering to ascertain if the patient is manipulating the test procedure. The HearTestTM system measures and reports standard deviation response time, false response rate and background noise adequacy during every test. The basis of these parameters being acceptable is on research and analysis of over 1 million hearing test conducted through the HearTestTM system. If the false response rate is elevated the system will automatically repeated at the affected frequency. This information is also documented on the audiogram.
Do I need otoscopic examinations?
The HSE L108 Guidance on Audiometric testing states that it advises otoscopic examination should form part of the pre-test examination process. As follows:
13 It is important that the person conducting the test has a record of the otological and noise exposure history of the person being tested. Also, that they undertake otoscopic examination of the ear immediately before the test to detect any major abnormality or the presence of exudate or wax which might affect the results. The tester should also be familiar with any hearing protection which may be used by workers so they can discuss proper fitting, cleaning and maintenance.
BS8253 - 1:2010 States: "Normally, the audiometric test is preceded by an otoscopic examination carried out by a qualified person."
The HSE outline the importance of otoscopic examination to identify major abnormality or exudate/wax that might affect audiometry results. This service does not include otoscopic examination. If an employees' hearing thresholds do not exceed the referral threshold levels stated by the HSE, this may be taken as reasonable evidence that exudate/wax are not affecting their surveillance audiometry performance; however, all employees who pass surveillance audiometry but still have concerns regarding their ear health should provide appropriate details in there pre-screening questionnaire to facilitate further medical referral, If requried.