Dr. Benke’s Otomobile Brings Mobile Hearing Screenings to Area Businesses

By October 8, 2007 Hearing Loss

When Dr. Ted Benke received a call four years ago from Barbara Rose, Human Resource Director of then Ponderosa Pine Energy, now Brazos Electric, asking if he did mobile hearing screening for companies, his answer was, “not currently.” But after meeting with the Industrial District’s HR working group and seeing a need for hearing conservation locally, Dr. Benke, an otolaryngologist, created the Otomobile.

Benke Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic introduced the Otomobile in 2004 to serve small and large industries in the area who require yearly OSHA hearing screens for their employees.

The Otomobile is equipped with the latest technology including FOSHM Safety and Health Software to store and record all data necessary to satisfy OSHA standards. Services include baseline screenings, annual hearing screens, determinations of standard threshold shift and age-corrected calculations.

Benke makes the service easy for companies and their safety managers by parking the Otomobile on-site, which also minimizes disruption in the company’s workflow. There, Benke, along with a clinical audiologist and trained technicians can test 12-16 employees per hour.

“The program is about hearing conservation,” Benke said. “We’re attempting to prevent hearing loss due to noise exposure.”

Benke said the key number is 85 decibels.

“If an employee is exposed to more than 85 decibels for more than eight hours per day, you’ll have hearing loss,” he said. “If an employee is exposed to 115 decibels, then he can withstand only 15 minutes before his hearing will be impacted.”

He said he uses sound level measurements with sound meters to determine the sound noise exposure, and if necessary, fits employees with proper hearing protection to meet OSHA standards.

“We make custom hearing protection,” Benke said. “One person may do fine with foam earplugs; for others, we could take an ear mold impression and make custom silicone earplugs that would provide the maximum NRR [noise reduction ratio].”

Benke said some of the companies that utilize the services of the Otomobile’s mobile hearing testing services are Gunderson, Sachem, Brazos Electric, International Ingredients, Unimin, and Hardee Landry. He said he also is a consultant to Johns Manville, treating all the company employees who require a follow up.

“Hearing conservation programs are becoming more prevalent across the country, and we’re pleased to be able to offer this service to companies who have already implemented the program or those who are looking to implement one because of OSHA mandates,” Benke said.

Benke is a Board Certified otolaryngologist with over 12 years of experience in occupational hearing programs. For five years, he served in the USAF working with audiologists and flight surgeons in the area of hearing protection. Since opening Benke Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic in Cleburne in 2000, Benke has worked with several area companies to help them manage their hearing conservation programs. Services include hearing testing, fitting of hearing protective devices and diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic hearing loss and tinnitus.

For more information on how your company can begin a hearing conservation program or for a free consultation, call Benke Ear, Nose & Throat Clinic at 817-641-3750.