Occupational Hearing Testing: 9 Tips to Help You Select the Right Testing Equipment

Tablet-based audiometers in occupational hearing tests can enhance OSHA compliance and harness real-time noise monitoring.

Choosing the right audiometer can transform the way occupational hearing testing programs are managed. Tablet-based audiometers optimized for boothless testing give businesses the ability to bring testing in-house and eliminate the complications that can arise from utilizing a third party to meet testing requirements. The right solution will enable your business to run a hearing testing program in a way that is more convenient and less disruptive to regular business operations. They have also been known to help improve OSHA compliance through greater employee participation. 

If you’re ready to say goodbye to testing your employees in a confined sound booth, sending them out to a local hearing clinic, or having a mobile clinic come onsite, here are nine considerations to help guide you through what to consider when looking for a tablet-based solution. 

1. Prioritizing ANSI & OSHA Compliance

Navigating OSHA standards can be overwhelming. Top-tier tablet audiometers will meet the OSHA requirements of an ANSI-compliant audiometer. While OSHA compliance remains the responsibility of the business, the most trusted solution providers will be forthcoming about how their products meet the relevant sections of OSHA’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards. They should be able to demonstrate how they report on standard threshold shifts, what tests they perform, what ANSI specifications they meet, how the equipment is calibrated, how ambient sound levels are monitored, and more. In your selection journey, bear all of this in mind. 

2. Ensure Consistent Testing Protocols Regardless of the Test Administrator

It can be difficult to maintain program compliance if you have multiple test administrators located in different facilities or even cities. Ensuring that everyone is using the same testing protocols ensures consistency and can aid in compliance. When considering testing equipment, look for a solution that allows program administrators to pre-configure the equipment and testing workflow. The best tablet-based audiometers will prevent any deviation in pre-defined testing processes. This should help to ensure testing consistency across an entire organization, which will lead to higher compliance rates. 

3. The Need for Continuous Noise Monitoring

Advanced tablet-based audiometers offer precision through continuous noise monitoring capabilities. Once you have found a room quiet enough to conduct testing, it is important to continually monitor for any changes in the environment that could impact ambient noise levels. You should verify that controls are in place to notify test administrators if the ambient noise levels in your testing location exceed the permissible levels, as this could interfere with test results. In these cases, testing can be paused until the environment is quiet enough to test, or a new test location can be found. Look for a device that adapts in real time to the testing environment, guaranteeing optimal accuracy at all times.

4. Valuing Offline Testing Capabilities

It might seem counter-intuitive for a tablet-based audiometer to support offline testing. By nature, mobile devices are generally connected to a wifi or cellular network. A key factor to consider when searching for a tablet-based solution is to look for one that also works when it is not in a connected environment. It is not uncommon for network signals to be weak inside manufacturing facilities or in remote locations. An audiometer that can work offline increases your options for test locations. 

5. Make it Easy to Use and Employee Friendly 

When looking for a tablet-based audiometer, you want to make sure everyone on your team can use it easily. While in most states, a clinical background is not required to administer occupational hearing tests, being certified by the Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC) is recommended. Regardless of the test administrator’s background, a simple interface and easy-to-use solution are a must. 

Look for an audiometer that combines automated testing with user-focused design. Employee-friendly features, such as self-administration or assisted testing modes, can result in a more pleasant experience for employees. And any time you can keep them out of the tight confines of a sound booth will be well received. These usability and design features help improve employee buy-in, which can lead to higher levels of compliance for your business. 

6. Seeking Quick Bio Verification

Test administrators using tablet-based audiometers need to perform a daily biological verification to check hardware function before the day’s testing begins. In bustling work environments, time is of the essence. Look for an audiometer with a shortened bio-verification workflow so that it is ready to go when you are. 

7. Making Data-Driven Decisions

If you come across a tablet-based audiometer that doesn’t come with a data management portal, consider looking elsewhere. You will want to look for a solution where employee and test data is stored, analyzed, and made ready for actionable insights in a digital way. Gone are the days of printed, paper-based audiograms. 

The test data should also automatically sync to the portal and then be removed from the tablet. These are added security features that help to maintain the integrity of employee test data. 

A web-based data management portal makes it possible to securely manage program data with centralized controls and the ability to restrict access levels assigned to specific users. Audiometric results should be encrypted and then automatically uploaded to the data management portal whenever devices are connected to a secure network. Only users with appropriate permission levels should be granted access to employee records and demographic information. Access to test results, employee demographics, and data is significantly limited from the testing devices and only viewable by the program admins.

8. Data Security Is Critical

It is strongly advised that you choose a solution developed with an ISO 27001 framework instead of SOC 2. Both SOC 2 and ISO 27001 frameworks are well-regarded in North America; however, ISO 27001 is globally recognized and provides greater detail on developing and maintaining an Information Security Management System (ISMS). Additionally, your technology provider should regularly conduct risk assessments, review security controls, and analyze their effectiveness. SOC 2 in isolation does not require the same data protection practices as ISO 27001. Because hearing conservation programs require the employer to capture and store PHI, it’s imperative that you invest in a solution that doesn’t compromise on data security measures.

9. Choosing The Right Partner

Selecting a tablet-based audiometric solution is about more than just the technology itself. A solution’s full potential is only realized when combined with a reliable partner who will work with you to build a successful and compliant testing program. A partner who recognizes the unique requirements of your business and who stands ready to tackle any challenges that may arise will ensure that you are able to achieve all of your program objectives in an efficient and cost-effective manner.

When choosing an audiometric solution, look for a partner who has experience supplying tablet-based audiometry solutions to companies of all sizes and who can offer a host of additional services — from onboarding to training, proactive calibration services and even mobile device management — as needed. 

Concluding Thoughts 

Transitioning to a tablet-based audiometer for your occupational hearing testing program is a strategic move that can streamline your processes, enhance compliance, alleviate stress for your team, and maybe even reduce costs. Choosing the right partner to support your journey is just as crucial as selecting the right device. Together, these elements empower your business to prioritize hearing health in a way that is efficient, effective, and tailored to your unique needs. If you would like to learn more about tablet-based audiometers, explore SHOEBOX at www.shoebox.md.

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