The 3M™ E-A-Rfit Dual-Ear Validation System measures the effectiveness of the ear plug or ear muff for the employee, providing accurate, quantitative results. Because you can simultaneously test both ears, you have more time to focus on the job at hand rather than the guesswork of finding the right fit.
In the third part of our series on hearing protection fit testing, we share how to use the 3M™ E-A-Rfit Dual-Ear Validation System to make sure workers are wearing their hearing protection effectively to protect them from noise-induced hearing loss.
How to get started with hearing protection fit testing
Newly hired employees unfamiliar with hearing protector use will require careful training along with ear fit testing to ensure they are adequately protected against hazardous noise. All other workers could follow the decision tree below when conducting fit tests for the first time. Baseline measurements capture how employees “normally” wear their hearing protection devices and serve as a benchmark for all future measurements.
Caution: Hearing protector device (HPD) fit testing should not be performed on employees experiencing ear pain on the day of testing.
Best practice ear fit-testing decision tree
How much hearing protection do employees need?
Each employee’s target personal attenuation rating (PAR) is based on the company exposure limit and the employee’s exposure. For example, if Employee A has a time-weighted average (TWA) of 95 dBA and the company exposure limit is 80 dB, then the employee must receive a PAR of at least 15 or above in order to “PASS.” If the employee achieved 10-dB PAR, then the measurement will display “FAIL.”
How often should you perform an ear fit test?
Much like audiometric testing, hearing protector fit testing is not a one-time event. Ideally, all employees in your hearing conservation program should be initially fit tested. For those who required extra training and/or a new size or style hearing protection, early follow-up is recommended to be sure the employee has access to the newly assigned hearing protectors, is wearing the usual or newly assigned hearing protectors, and the HPD is continuing to provide adequate protection. Annual HPD fit testing can provide assurance the hearing protectors are being worn correctly and give additional opportunity for further hearing conservation training.
How is fit testing conducted and where?
The physical location for testing may vary depending on your company but the following conditions make fit testing more efficient and effective
- The fit-test location is centrally located and easily accessible to the workers
- A clean, relatively quiet room to accommodate testing and personnel staging
- Managers and supervisors are engaged in the process and can assist in assuring the workers can leave their workstations to be fit-tested quickly and on a timely basis
- A flexible schedule with individual time slots is employed
- A “wrangler” is designated who can assist and ensure the efficient flow of workers to be tested.
- Educational materials and tools are available if additional training is required.
- A complete selection of hearing protector samples of all types that are used at the workplace is available to give to workers, especially for cases in which they have been “reassigned” a different size or style based on fit-test results.