Improving Hearing Protection Device Noise Attenuation Through Fit-Testing in an Occupational Health Clinic

Academic Article

Abstract

  • Background: Occupational noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is the second most common medical disability for military veterans and accounts for 24% of all hearing loss in the United States. Hearing loss negatively affects health and billions of dollars are spent annually for direct and indirect medical costs and lost work productivity. Proper hearing protection device (HPD) fit can prevent NIHL. Quantitative fit-testing systems to determine personal attenuation rates (PARs) are available, but not widely utilized. Without quantitative testing, validating appropriate fit and attenuation to a permissible exposure level to prevent NIHL is difficult. Methods: A quality improvement project measured 100 employees enrolled in a hearing conservation program (HCP) to determine if they obtained a target PAR after inserting the HPDs in their “usual” fashion. Those who did not obtain target PAR (n = 27) received an evidence-based intervention that demonstrated proper HPD fit by a skilled trainer followed by a repeat attempt by the participant to replicate the feel of the demonstrated HPD placement. PAR was subsequently measured to assess for appropriate noise attenuation. Findings: Seventy-one percent achieved target PAR (≥ 20 decibels) at baseline testing. After the intervention, 91 of 100 participants had achieved target PAR, a 20% improvement. Conclusions/Implications for Practice: Findings suggest this evidence-based intervention was an effective strategy for improving HPD fit for employees enrolled in HCPs. This intervention may prevent occupational hearing loss and decrease the health and socioeconomic impacts of NIHL.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Hayes ME; Hammond S; Montgomery AP; Stephenson L
  • Start Page

  • 196
  • End Page

  • 204
  • Volume

  • 70
  • Issue

  • 4