Western First Aid & Safety Blog

Why Fit Test Hearing Protection?

If you work in a loud environment, you need hearing protection. And if you are tasked with keeping your employees’ ears healthy, you need to know there’s more to it then stocking up on ear plugs. You’ll need fit testing. So just what is fit test hearing protection? Like the qualitative respirator fit test, hearing protection fit tests can assess the actual protectors (ear plugs) used by workers. Fit testing will provide a formal metric you can use to determine whether or not your employees are actually receiving the best protection from environmental noise. Moreover, this can also determine...
  • Whether your employees are wearing the right ear plugs.
  • If they are using them properly.
  • Who might be at risk for developing noise induced hearing loss.
New innovations in fit test products have made it easy to measure hearing protective devices used in the field. So instead of relying on population estimates, the effectiveness of hearing protectors can be tested and verified at an individual level with Personal Attenuation Rating. The Personal Attenuation Rating is a personal measurement of how much noise is blocked by the hearing protector as the hearing device is worn by the worker at the moment. Your safety manager can oversee the testing and document the results in a fit test that fulfills the regulatory requirements in the workplace. This isn’t the only fit test method available today. The oldest fit test method involves a special hearing threshold test that is similar to the traditional audiometric test. This test is performed in a quiet room with or without the use of ear plugs. Another method used to fit test hearing protection in the workplace involves using a probe microphone. This probe is pushed through a small hole in the ear plugs. This test measures the difference in noise levels on both sides of the ear plugs as it is inserted into the ear canal. The newest test method includes a loudness balance procedure, which is performed with or without ear plugs. This test can be used with any ear plug in any room. Just like respirator fit testing methods, field verification of hearing protective devices provides important information and data, but it also has its limits. While fit testing will verify the capability of an ear plug as its being used, the test only provides a snapshot of attenuation during the testing period. The test will not tell the effects of noise exposure to the worker an hour later or perhaps a day later. Even better, you can use this test as a chance to review how employees are using ear protection and what steps you can take to train them better. You’ll receive immediate, personal feedback from those using ear protection and can determine right away whether the ear plug is working as advertised. Want to know more? Ask your friends at Western First Aid and Safety!

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