The Department of Defense (DOD) has rolled out significant updates to its Hearing Conservation Program (HCP), outlined in the recently revised DOD Instruction 6055.12. The focal point of these updates is a requirement for initial hearing protector fit-testing, targeting all DOD personnel with documented noise exposure equal to or exceeding 95 dBA 8-hour time-weighted average (TWA) enrolled in a service hearing conservation program.
What is Hearing Protection Fit Testing?
Fit testing is a method for ensuring workers receive the right level of noise protection, addressing issues like poor fit or incorrect insertion. Hearing protector fit testing quantitatively measures how well a specific hearing protector reduces user noise. It focuses on the Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) for each individual ear and protector, providing a real-world measure of the overall noise reduction offered by the hearing protector.
What is the Personal Attenuation Rating?
The Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) measures how well a hearing protector works for each worker through Individual Fit Testing. This testing, done with the employee's own protector as usually worn, is recognized by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), NIOSH, and professional organizations as superior to relying on the lab derived NRR for predicting real-world performance. Individual Fit Testing is now recommended as a best practice for hearing conservation programs.
Who Requires Fit-Testing?
Exposure to 95 dBA 8-hour TWA: DOD personnel in the service hearing conservation program, exposed to 95 dBA 8-hour TWA, must undergo hearing protector fit-testing during the initial audiogram and before starting duty in noisy areas or as soon as possible after employment begins.
Significant Threshold Shifts (STS): A hearing protector fit test is essential when a positive STS is found on the periodic audiogram. This is not just for compliance; it is a strategic measure to assess if the hearing protection devices are properly fitted and offer the required Personal Attenuation Rating for the current noise environment.
Changes to ear: When there are physical changes to the ear canal, it can affect the fit of assigned hearing protection devices. The updated DOD guidelines now require fit testing when such changes jeopardize the protection's effectiveness.
Change of Device: If the primary fitted hearing protection device becomes unavailable (such as an employee transitioning from earplugs to earmuffs).
Single Frequency Shift: If there is a 15 dB shift at a single frequency at 1000, 2000, 3000, and 4000 Hz.
Hearing Protection Fit Testing with Benson Medical CCF-200
The CCF-200 is an innovative system that automatically measures the effectiveness of earplugs by providing a Personal Attenuation Rating (PAR) in decibels. What makes the CCF-200 unique is its integration of fit testing into the annual hearing testing routine, allowing for convenient and efficient testing of multiple subjects from a single computer, like the industry-leading CCA-200mini Audiometer.
With a user-friendly design and compatibility with various audiometers and sound level meters, the CCF-200 is a comprehensive solution for workplace hearing protection.
Do you want to learn more about the CCF-200?
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