Hearing Loss Prevention Program

The Hearing Loss Prevention Program encourages all UW organizations and departments to minimize the risk of noise-induced hearing loss to employees, researchers, students and visitors.

Essential parts of the program are to:

  • Identify and assess areas and activities where employees may be exposed to:
    • high noise levels that may exceed 85 decibels (dBA) averaged over an eight-hour period,
    • extreme noise levels of 115 dBA at any time (greater than one second)
    • extreme impact noise levels of 140 dBC (less than one second)
  • Reduce or control noise using engineering and administrative controls, where feasible.
  • Post signs at noisy areas and require hearing protectors.
  • Identify employees who need hearing protection.
  • Provide hearing protectors to employees and train them in their use.
  • Provide baseline and annual audiometric hearing exams to employees.

The Hearing Loss Prevention program is applicable to all University organizational units at all locations including the Seattle campus, UW Bothell, UW Tacoma, UW Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, University owned property, University leased space, and temporary field locations under the control of University operations staff.

What you need to know

Responsibilities of department managers, supervisors and principal investigators:

  • Identify areas of excessive noise and affected employees. 
  • Coordinate sound level surveys and personnel monitoring for noise exposure, conducted by EH&S, to provide a quantitative assessment of noise hazards in your workplace.
  • If employees are exposed to noise above 90 dBA averaged over the work shift, implement engineering or administrative controls. See the L&I Hearing Loss Prevention (Noise) webpage and Reducing Hazards from Noise (OSHA).
  • Ensure individuals exposed to noise levels at or above 85 dBA averaged over an 8-hour work shift are enrolled in the Hearing Loss Prevention Program, receive training and medical surveillance.
  • Ensure employees are provided with baseline and annual audiometric exams at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic, or equivalent, through EH&S.
  • Ensure staff has taken the Hearing Conservation training.
  • Provide at least two types of hearing protectors to employees if controls cannot be implemented, and for all employees exposed to noise levels at or over 85 dBA averaged over an 8-hour work shift, greater than 115 dBA any time and 140 dBC impact noise any time.
  • Ensure hearing protectors are worn properly.
  • Post caution signs where noise may exceed 85 dBA averaged over an 8-hour work shift.
  • Post danger signs where noise may exceed 115 dBA, even intermittently.
  • Ensure that reports of high noise are investigated.
  • Maintain records as required.

Responsibilities of faculty, staff and students:

  • Report elevated noise levels, noisy equipment and hearing protector problems to supervisor.
  • Take training on Hearing Conservation.
  • Choose the most comfortable, effective hearing protection devices that fit well. Remember that the BEST protector is one you'll wear. Earplugs are available in different sizes and shapes to fit different ear canals; earmuffs are easy to put on and take off for short-term loud noise exposure. A combination of earmuffs and earplugs may be needed.
  • Wear hearing protectors in posted noise areas.
  • Keep hearing protectors clean and replace when necessary.
  • Take baseline and annual audiogram tests.

Responsibilities of EH&S:

  • Oversee and maintain the UW Hearing Loss Prevention Program.
  • Monitor work sites for noise levels and inform employees and supervisors of results.
  • Recommend engineering and administrative controls wherever practical.
  • Assist employees and supervisors in selecting proper hearing protection devices, and provide training on use.
  • Assist with proper area signage.
  • Provide audiometric hearing tests.
  • Provide information and training on noise hazards and hearing conservation.
  • Maintain records as required.

What you can do to stay safe

Employees, researchers, students:

  • If you think you are exposed to loud noise at work, tell your supervisor or manager.
  • Take the EH&S online training class on Hearing Conservation
  • Wear your hearing protective devices
  • Have hearing tested (audiometric testing) for baseline and annually.
  • If you are already enrolled in the Hearing Loss Prevention Program, you may have your hearing tested at the UW Speech and Hearing Clinic or equivalent through EH&S

Services available

EH&S provides the following services:

  • Sound level surveys and personnel monitoring for noise exposure
  • Quantitative assessment of noise hazards
  • Training
  • Work with employees to select proper hearing protection devices
  • Work with departments on engineering and administrative controls and proper area signage
  • Work with departments on audiometric testing

Frequently asked questions