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OSHA issues new hearing loss rule, effective Jan. 1, 2003-or 2004

November 24, 2010

Employers and their health care providers need to prepare for a new rule on employee work-related hearing losses issued by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration that takes effect Jan. 1, 2003. The new rule redefines what constitutes a "hearing loss," as recorded on the employer's OSHA 300 Log.

The current analysis requires a qualified health care professional to compare the employee's original audiogram (hearing test) and his annual follow-up audiogram. The coming change lowers the threshold for what counts as a hearing loss, but several points apply to the current and revised standards:

• The standard applies only to those employees who are exposed to a minimum level of noise while working- roughly averaging 85-plus decibels over an eight-hour workday.
• The hearing loss must be work-related.
• The standard allows an employee's hearing loss to be adjusted based on aging.
• The employee can be re-tested for hearing loss within 30 days, to confirm the accuracy of the initial test.

Officials of OSHA indicated they might seek comments on the new rule, which would delay the rule's effective date until Jan. 1, 2004.