Alice H. Suter
Alice Suter and Assoc., 575 Dogwood Way, Ashland, OR 97520
Daniel L. Johnson
EG&G Special Projects, P.O. Box 9100, Albuquerque, NM 87119
There have been several major improvements in the field of occupational noise exposure over the last 25 years. ISO 1999 has been revised and now provides an accepted method of relating hearing loss to noise exposure. Hearing protection devices have been improved considerably, impulse noise is being assessed more effectively, and there has been a shift among U.S. agencies toward using the equal-energy rule in noise exposure standards. Perhaps the most important advancement has occurred with the promulgation of OSHA's hearing conservation amendment to its noise standard. The future, however, poses many challenges: OSHA's noise standard needs revision, more emphasis on enforcement is needed, engineering controls should be re-emphasized after many years of inattention, and total reliance on hearing protection devices should be de-emphasized. In addition, the benefits of the hearing conservation amendment need to be extended to currently underserved workers, such as miners and workers in construction, agriculture, and the oil and gas industries. Perhaps the greatest challenge is the need to investigate the effectiveness of hearing conservation programs on a national scale to determine the extent to which they are actually preventing hearing loss.