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Abnormal Baseline Audiogram

David M. Lipscomb, PhD

June 14, 2010

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Question

What is the employer required to do if the first baseline audiogram comes back abnormal?

Answer

Initial hearing testing in industry serves multiple purposes. Strictures in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) do not permit using hearing test data as a reason to decline employment. However, the test can be useful in determining placement of an applicant once hired. Further, the results of testing can be reviewed with regard to any ongoing hearing problem that might interfere with an applicant's ability to achieve the work responsibilities.

Of course, one of the major purposes for hearing testing early in one's employment as set forth in 1952 by Dr. Joe Sataloff is to establish a foundation of the applicant's hearing against which comparison can later be made to determine if hearing changed during employment.

Now, to respond to the question: I don't believe the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations offer any guidance when baseline hearing testing results fall out of the normal range. Good audiological principles would dictate action. If there is a possible medically related problem it behooves the employer to recommend medical oversight. Otherwise, the baseline can be used as a metric for future test comparisons as protection for both the employee and employer.

Dr. David M. Lipscomb has worked in various forms of hearing conservation activities for more than 40 years. He has set up and evaluated hearing conservation programs in industry. As a professor at the University of Tennessee, he guided student training including the topic of hearing conservation. Presently, Dr. Lipscomb is a Consulting Audiologist. In that capacity, he evaluates programs and serves as an expert witness on occasion concerning claims for occupational hearing impairment.


David M. Lipscomb, PhD

President, Correct Service, Inc.,

Dr. Lipscomb served as professor of Audiology in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology for the University of Tennessee.  In addition to teaching mostly graduate level classes, he conducted research and was Director of the department's Noise Research Laboratory.  Since 1966, he has qualified in courts of law as an expert in the field of Audiology.  He has testified in hundreds of depositions and more than 100 trials. None - there are no conflicts of interest and I have nothing to disclose


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