• Robert Morgan

Individual Fit-Testing and Training Session

I've been asked to explain in a bit more detail what exactly Ear Plug Fit-Testing and Training is and how we do it. The example I'll give is hypothetical, but it represents an accurate depiction of what a typical session involves. I'll call this hypothetical worker Ted.

We set up in a quiet room right at the company's work site, we require a table, 2 chairs and plug – wifi isn’t necessary. It helps if we have access to their audio results but not necessary.

The workers are then scheduled to come in one at a time for individualized testing and training. To test and train each worker takes about 30 minutes so we can complete 12 – 15 workers in an 8 hour work day.

When Ted comes in for his turn I ask if he's required to wear ear plugs at work. Ted says that he wears earplugs every day for different lengths of time depending on his task. I ask Ted what brand of ear plug he wears. He replies the pink and yellow Laser-Lites because that is what's provided for them on this work site. Ted had a couple pair right in his pocket. How prudent on Ted's part...always has a set handy so he's never caught short.

I ask Ted to put in a set so that we can test their effectiveness. Ted struggles a bit to get them in but re-rolls them a couple times till he's happy with how they feel. The VeriPro instrument will measure and display how many decibels of noise reduction he's achieving in each of his ears at five different frequencies. This test result is called Ted's Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) and is shown on his printed report.

After completing the testing, we review the results together. The report shows that Ted is achieving zero protection in his left ear and 5 decibels of protection in his right ear. Together we need to discover what the problems are and fix them.

It's at this stage that we use an otoscope to examine Ted’s ear canal. We look for things like the ear canal’s size, shape and direction. We also look for obstructions including inflammation from infection or a buildup of ear wax.

Ted’s ear canal and ear drum appear healthy but two very important things are discovered. The first thing is that his ear canals are quite narrow. This is surprisingly common even in large men. The second thing is that while Ted’s left ear canal goes straight in his right ear canal slopes forward towards his face. Because his ear canals are different each requires a different technique to insert the ear plug correctly. It’s obvious now why Ted struggled when putting in his ear plugs and why they were so ineffective.

Because ear canals are all different no single earplug can be effective for everyone so we have with us many different brands and styles of ear plugs of varying sizes and densities so that the best plug can be selected to provide full protection.

I suggest we try a certain 3M ear plug that is a bit smaller diameter and uses a bit denser foam material. The smaller diameter will be a better fit for Ted and the denser material will more easily push around the curve in his left ear.

I now show Ted the two different techniques he needs to use to get both of his ear plugs in correctly and ask him to put them in so we can test the effectiveness of his new plugs. Ted smiles as he discovers how quickly and easily these new plugs are to put in. We then run through the fit testing program again and check the results.

Ted’s new Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) with his new plugs and after being trained on how to install them properly is Left Ear – 29 decibels of protection and his Right Ear – 27 decibels of protection, previously Left 0 dB and Right 5 dB. After this fit-testing and training when Ted inserts new plugs as instructed, he can now work safely in noise exposure levels up to 110 dBs. Before this fit testing and training Ted was unknowingly working essentially unprotected.

Before Ted leaves, I write down the ear plug brand and model so he can give it to his supervisor so he can order a supply of them for Ted.

We email Ted his detailed VeriPRO results and complete a confirmation of fit-testing and training for the worksite to add to his employee file. This information can be added to the audio conservation program.

Total time for Ted’s fit testing and training – 30 minutes. Total cost - $40.

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