Bad Assumptions About Hearing Protection #5: There’s No Way to Measure Real Attenuation on a Worker Wearing Ear Plugs

Bad Assumptions About Hearing Protection #5: There’s No Way to Measure Real Attenuation on a Worker Wearing Ear Plugs

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There definitely are several methods of measuring real-world attenuation on workers wearing ear plugs.

Instead of relying upon the population estimates of the NRR, a safety manager can now measure each worker’s protection level.

While each method of fit-testing has its own merits, one of the most popular methods is called VeriPRO®.

And as the name implies, it verifies the protection achieved by a worker wearing ear plugs.

In the VeriPRO method, employees are given a special listening test without their ear plugs, and then repeat the test while wearing their right ear plug, followed by their left ear plug. The difference in the results of these three special hearing tests is a measurement of how much protection is being offered by the ear plugs, just as they were fit by the worker. VeriPRO works with any ear plug from any manufacturer, and a quiet test booth is not required to administer the test (it can be administered in a lunchroom or office).

Some workers in the Hearing Conservation Program may achieve a poor fit with the ear plugs they are using. In these cases, there are two good options to improve protection: 

  1. VeriPRO offers short training videos showing the proper fitting techniques for nearly every style of ear plug. Workers typically show an immediate improvement in attenuation when they are retested after watching the short training video.
  2. Perhaps a different ear plug should be tried. In a field study of real-world fit, many workers received 20-30 decibels more protection simply by trying a different ear plug.6

Using a fit-test method like VeriPRO to verify attenuation, a safety manager can document exactly how much protection a worker receives with a given ear plug. The result is a Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR). But that PAR is specific only to that ear plug, that worker, and that particular fit. Fit-testing might not be feasible for some employers to administer on every noise-exposed worker in the facility, but it is certainly feasible for new hires, or workers demonstrating a significant threshold shift in their audiometric testing. OSHA regulations require these workers to be retrained and re-fit with appropriate hearing protection, and the fit-test systems available now allow employers to accomplish that very effectively.

 

Next: Bad Assumption #6: There’s No Way to Measure the Noise Dose of a Worker Under the Hearing Protectors Throughout Their Workday

 

Blog Author:  Brad Witt  
Blog Catagories:  VeriPro  

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