As part of your hearing conservation program, onsite audiometric testing program, or as a stand alone initiative, we will come to your workplace and manage your ear plug fit testing. Ear plug fit testing is gaining greater adoption by hearing conservation experts and by industry as a key tool in hearing loss prevention.
Health and Safety professionals have a universal challenge in protecting the hearing of their noise-exposed employees. Do you know how much protection your employees actually achieve with their ear plugs? Determining whether workers have optimal real-world attenuation for the noise exposure in their work environment is critical to the success of a hearing conservation program.
Ear plug fit testing records
Ear plug fit testing can be an invaluable tool in reducing compensation claims for noise-induced hearing loss at the workplace.
Fit testing records can help document that effective steps were taken to select appropriate hearing protectors, train workers in their proper use, and to
document a proper fit with a particular protector. This level of powerful documentation has only more recently been available to hearing conservation programs.
Ear Plug Fit Testing – who benefits?
Ear plug fit testing provides a measurement from which you can determine whether employees are:
- receiving optimal protection for their noise environment from their ear plug
- require additional training on how to fit their ear plugs, and
- if there is a need to try a different model of ear plug for good fit and attenuation.
Ear plug fit testing benefits safety managers and employees alike. For the safety manager, it fulfills regulatory requirements for training with documented results. For employees, it demonstrates the importance of proper protection in the workplace. It involves them and helps them find the best choice for their ears, and education on correct fitting and selection of ear plugs.
The importance of fit testing as a critical element of 1:1 employee training cannot be overstated. No generalized rating scheme for hearing protectors can be effective without knowing how much attenuation individual workers actually attain.
The attenuation value of ear plug fit testing
The value of fit testing was made evident in a field attenuation study conducted by the Howard Leight® Acoustical Laboratory on the performance of hearing protection devices. Conducted on more than 100 workers at eight different facilities, the study showed that, for their ear plugs, one-third of workers achieved attenuation higher than the manufacturer’s claimed attenuation for their ear plugs and another third achieved attenuation within 5 dB of the claimed rating.
Significantly, one-third of workers had attenuation that was more than 5 dB below the claimed attenuation.
The study then interviewed the workers who obtained high attenuation values to determine the common factors that contribute to good ear plug fit and, hence, good attenuation in use. Read more…
In the above study, only one factor was found to be a consistent predictor of good fit, and that was one-on-one training. That is, the more often a worker had received individual training in the proper use of hearing protectors, the higher the probability of a good fit. The same was not true for group training, such as watching annual training videos or passing out brochures.
If a safety manager were to supply ear plugs based on the assumption that all ear plugs achieve only half of their published attenuation in the field, then clearly two-thirds of the 100 workers in the study would be seriously overprotected, because they are achieving much higher protection than 50 percent.
Fit testing of hearing protectors bridges the gap between the laboratory estimates of attenuation and the real-world attenuation achieved by workers as they normally wear their protectors.
Find out more about CHP’s Noise Risk Management services