Development of ANSI Standards: An Audiologist’s View Most audiologists know that audiometers must be calibrated according to an ANSI standard. Some know that ANSI is the acronym for the American National Standards Institute. A few might even know that each standard has a number (in this case, S3.6), but I am willing to bet few know what ... Features
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Features  |   June 01, 2004
Development of ANSI Standards: An Audiologist’s View
Author Notes
  • Robert Burkard, is a professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, and Otolaryngology at the University at Buffalo. He is currently chair of ANSI S3 Bioacoustics and editor of the American Journal of Audiology. Contact him at rfb@acsu.buffalo.edu.
    Robert Burkard, is a professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences, and Otolaryngology at the University at Buffalo. He is currently chair of ANSI S3 Bioacoustics and editor of the American Journal of Audiology. Contact him at rfb@acsu.buffalo.edu.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / Features
Features   |   June 01, 2004
Development of ANSI Standards: An Audiologist’s View
The ASHA Leader, June 2004, Vol. 9, 2-25. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.09112004.2
The ASHA Leader, June 2004, Vol. 9, 2-25. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR1.09112004.2
Most audiologists know that audiometers must be calibrated according to an ANSI standard. Some know that ANSI is the acronym for the American National Standards Institute. A few might even know that each standard has a number (in this case, S3.6), but I am willing to bet few know what the “S3” stands for. Fewer still are likely to know how a standard becomes (and remains) a standard. Read on to find out.
The American Engineering Standards Committee (which would eventually become ANSI) was founded in 1917. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) was founded in 1906 to develop standards for the electrical and electronics industries. In 1946, ANSI (then called the American Standards Association) joined with the national standardization bodies of 25 other countries to form the International Organization of Standards (ISO). ISO’s purpose was to aid in the development of international standards in fields outside of electricity and electronics.
ANSI, through a network of some 250 accredited standards developers, coordinates the development of American national standards, whereas IEC and ISO develop international standards. In some cases, ANSI standards developers adopt international standards; in other cases the ANSI and international standards are technically nearly identical, and in some cases ANSI standards are technically different from international standards. The goal referred to as “harmonization” is achieved when United States and international standards are technically identical.
ANSI standards are voluntary and are not laws, although they may be referenced in state or federal law. U.S. national standards are created by standards developers approved by ANSI. Although there are a variety of bodies that might develop standards, most acoustic standards are developed by Accredited Standards Committees (ASCs) administered by the Acoustical Society of America. There are four ASCs-often referred to as “S” committees-that develop standards related to sound, vibration, and shock: S1 Acoustics, S2 Mechanical Vibration and Shock, S3 Bioacoustics, and S12 Noise.
Audiologists are mostly interested in standards developed by S1, S3, and S12, as we generally are not strongly engaged in the areas of vibration and shock. Each S committee is administered by an organization known as a Secretariat. The Secretariat for S1, S2, S3, and S12 is the Acoustical Society of America. Each S committee has a manager. The manager for S1, S2, S3, and S12 is currently Susan Blaeser. Each S committee has a chair and vice chair. Audiologists have often been the chairs and vice chairs of S3. I am currently the chair of S3, and Craig Champlin (another audiologist) is the vice chair.
Developing Standards
In order for a new standard to be developed, an interested party must submit a proposal that includes a brief description of the scope of the proposed standard. This proposal will be sent to the Secretariat and be evaluated by the manager who will then communicate with the ASC chair. If approved by the chair, a ballot is sent out to the voting members of the committee. These members have received voting rights by ballot of the committee and pay an annual fee for this privilege. These voting members might be companies, organizations (like ASHA), and sometimes government agencies.
Once balloted, if there is a general consensus that the proposal has merit, then a working group (WG) is formed with the express purpose of aiding the S committee in the development of the standard. If the proposed standard falls under the scope of a WG already in existence, this WG will work on the proposed standard. If a new WG is formed, the person submitting the proposal will most likely become the new WG chair. The WG membership must include representatives of groups that have a substantial interest in the standard. For example, one might expect an audiometer standard to have at the very least an audiologist and a representative from industry (a manufacturer) on the committee.
The committee meets and writes a draft standard, following format guidelines. It can take years to draft a standard on which the committee agrees. Once the draft standard is developed, the S3 committee chair sends it out for comment and ballot. The draft is sent to individual experts (IEs). IEs are named and approved by each S committee annually. The draft is also sent out to all voting members who approve the draft, don’t approve, or abstain. They also have the opportunity to make comments on the standard.
Here is where life gets interesting. ANSI standards are consensus standards. Consensus is not indicated by a simple majority vote, and does not mean absolute unanimity. If there are negative votes, the WG chair (often with the involvement of the standards manager and the S chair) work to resolve the negative vote. It is possible that fairly minor wording changes or other appeasements can reverse a negative vote. If this happens, and there are no substantive technical changes from the original draft, then the draft becomes an ANSI Standard (e.g., ANSI S3.6 is the sixth standard in the S3 ASC). If no reversal of one or few “no” votes is possible, then a ballot is sent out, indicating the number of “no” votes, and the reasons for them are enumerated.
All voting members have a chance to review the draft again in light of the opposing comments and change their vote if they wish. Should the negative votes remain few, the standard is approved. If many of the votes become “no,” the WG is sent back to the drawing board to take the negative comments into consideration. In the process of resolving a negative vote, if substantial technical changes are made to the standard, the standard must go out for a 30-day review to allow the voting members a chance to decide if they still want to approve it. During the voting time, there is a period of public comment, when anyone is free to offer comments to be considered by the WG.
Existing standards must be voted on every five years. They can be reaffirmed (same standard re-approved), revised, or withdrawn. Sometimes it takes time to revise a standard, and extensions for an existing standard are possible.
Audiology-Related Standards
What standards might be of interest to audiologists? In S1, there are a number of standards concerning microphones, acoustic calibrators, and sound level meters (e.g., S1.15, S1.40, S1.4) that are mostly of interest to manufacturers, but are clearly relevant to calibrating audiometric equipment. In S3, in addition to the audiometer standard (S3.6), there is one on bioacoustical terminology (S3.20), several hearing aid standards (e.g., S3.22, S3.35, S3.42), standards on couplers (S3.13, S3.7), acoustic impedance/admittance instruments (S3.39), one on ambient noise level allowable for audiometric testing (S3.1), a procedure for pure-tone threshold estimation (S3.21), and a standard on tests of vestibular function (S3.45), to name a few. S12 has many standards related to occupational noise exposure. A recently approved (and controversial) standard (S12.60) specified ambient room noise and reverberation time for classrooms in our schools.
Although standards are continuously being developed, there are gaping holes in audiology coverage. ANSI has no standard related to auditory evoked potential (AEP) and otoacoustic emission (OAE) testing. Manufacturers of AEP and OAE devices have no guidelines for the manufacture and calibration of these instruments. This is a sad state of affairs, as this can have a negative impact on our ability to identify the hearing abilities of children.
We are also constantly revising standards. The ANSI S committees need volunteers to serve on working groups and as officers on the S committees. Audiology has always had a strong representation in ANSI S3 and S12. A number of years ago, ASHA formed a standards committee (Committee for Biological Standards and Acoustical Standards), and annually pays to be a voting member of S3 and S12.
In the early 1990s, I served on this ASHA standards committee, and eventually also served as its chair. In attending some ANSI Standards meetings as ASHA’s representative (the Standards meetings occur at meetings of the Acoustical Society of America), I learned about the standards process, and became active in ANSI S3.
As I am not aging gracefully, I need someone to take my place in ANSI S3. If you have a solid background in acoustics, and believe (as I do) that you have an obligation to the profession of audiology, then I ask you to become involved in the ANSI Standards process.
I honestly believe that our unique combination of technical and clinical skills make us assets in the development and revision of ANSI standards in acoustics, bioacoustics, and noise. If you are interested in volunteering, or in purchasing one or more standards, please contact Susan Blaeser at asastds@aip.org.
Selected ANSI Standards Relating to Audiology

ANSI S1.4-1983 (R 2001), “American National Standard Specification for Sound Level Meters”

ANSI S1.15-1997/Part 1 (R 2001), “American National Standard Measurement Microphones, Part 1: Specification for Laboratory Standard Microphones”

ANSI S1.40-1984 (R 2001), “American National Standard Specification for Acoustical Calibrators”

ANSI S3.1-1999 (R 2003), “American National Standard Maximum Permissible Ambient Noise Levels for Audiometric Test Rooms”

ANSI S3.6-1996 “American National Standard Specification for Audiometers”

ANSI S3.7-1995 (R 2003), “American National Standard Method for Coupler Calibration of Earphones”

ANSI S3.13-1987 (R 2002), “American National Standard Mechanical Coupler for Measurement of Bone Vibrators”

ANSI S3.20-1995 (R 2003), “American National Standard Bioacoustical Terminology”

ANSI S3.21-1978 (R 1997), “American National Standard Method for Manual Pure-Tone Threshold Audiometry”

ANSI S3.22-1996 (R 2003), “American National Standard Specification of Hearing Aid Characteristics”

ANSI S3.35-1985 (R 1997), “American National Standard Methods of Measurement of Performance Characteristics of Hearing Aids under in situ Working Conditions”

ANSI S3.39-1987 (R 2002), “American National Standard Specifications for Instruments to Measure Aural Acoustic Impedance and Admittance (Aural Acoustic Immittance)”

ANSI S3.42-1992 (R 2002), “American National Standard Testing Hearing Aids with a Broad-Band Noise Signal”

ANSI S3.45-1999, “American National Standard Procedures for Testing Basic Vestibular Function”

ANSI S12.60-2002, “American National Standard Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools”

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June 2004
Volume 9, Issue 11