Join me on one of our visits to industrial and construction sites around the country and you’ll see people wearing in-ear hearing protection badly. Some might as well not be wearing it at all. We’ll walk past even when we’re completing noise monitoring for a client and look across to see a friendly face smiling but with ear plugs hanging half out of the ears and being pretty much useless. So, has the time for fit testing for hearing protection finally arrived?
We’ve got used to the requirement for testing face masks (fit testing of RPE) over the past few years – if you need this completing we can provide this as part of our support to you on our next visit to your site or offices – let us know on 01453 800100 if you require this. But, we haven’t yet got used to the idea that hearing protection which is badly worn (ear plugs we’re looking at you here) really isn’t an effective control.
We know that some workers will still suffer hearing damage in spite of the controls we put in place. Have a look at our blog on ototoxic substances (those which can lead to hearing damage, particularly when combined with higher noise exposures). We also know that some workers will suffer hearing loss even though we think we’ve done our job well and provided good protection. Could this be the result of poor practices, like removing hearing protection to hear a conversation? Could it be because of their own particular physiology? Could it be ototoxic substances? Or, could it be that hearing protection was badly worn resulting in protection levels far below those which we would expect. See also our blog on audiometry and let us know if you need support.
Fit testing for hearing protection: what are your options
The first option is the simplest and that is recognising the risk and following that up with education. Get someone competent to sit with your staff (us for example) to explain about noise, protection and how to properly fit in ear protection. If you want a quick way to do this also have a look at some online videos from the manufacturers – we’ve included one for you below from 3M. If you feel you need to take things a step further then please get in touch and we can discuss your options.