Original Research - Special Collection: Occupational Hearing Loss in Africa

Classification of audiograms in the prevention of noise-induced hearing loss: A clinical perspective

Zumbi Musiba
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 67, No 2 | a691 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v67i2.691 | © 2020 Zumbi Musiba | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 October 2019 | Published: 03 March 2020

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Zumbi Musiba, Sustainable Communities, Barrick Gold Corporation, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, United Republic of

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Background: Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is a major contributor to disabling hearing loss. Engineering controls are superior to hearing protection devices (HPDs) in prevention of occupational noise induced hearing loss (ONIHL), although the latter are more commonly used. Effective use of audiometry requires quick categorization of audiograms. The UK Health and Safety Executive (UKHSE) scheme for the categorization of audiograms is a tool that accomplishes this.

Objectives: The objective of this paper is to provide an overview of the classification of audiograms and build a case for the preferential use of the UKHSE’s scheme to achieve this.

Method: The author provides a literature review of methods of classification for audiograms and uses a case study in a Tanzanian mining company to demonstrate how the UKHSE scheme was successfully used to enhance the existing hearing protection program.

Results: The literature review identified several methods of classification based on a variation of threshold shifts from baseline. The difference was in the frequency and level of threshold shift used to determine hearing loss, and the recommended course of action once hearing loss is detected. The UKHSE scheme is simple and provides guidance on steps to be taken thereafter. This was demonstrated in a case study among miners in a mining company in Tanzania.

Conclusion: The UKHSE audiogram classification scheme has the advantage of providing a straightforward, easy to determine classification that allows for intervention appropriate to the findings.


ONIHL; Audiogram classification; Hearing surveillance; Threshold shift; UKHSE categorization scheme; Audiometry; Hierarchy of controls


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