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Safety Update: Innovations in Hearing Conservation Help Protect Workers and Improve Safety

Source: Safety Daily Advisor

Every year 30 million people are exposed to hazardous noise on the job, and thousands suffer from preventable work-related hearing loss. Now, some innovative technology comes to the rescue and helps protect workers in noisy environments.

For example, at 3M’s Hutchinson, Minnesota, facility, a 2012 Safe-in-Sound award winner, workers undergo annual fit testing, using 3M’s own E-A-Rfit™ Validation System. Like respirator fit testing, testing for hearing protection helps ensure that devices are in place and working properly.

The system includes tools for:

  • Auditing
  • Fitting
  • Training
  • Managing a testing program


The software establishes a baseline value for workers and helps identify those whose current protection might be inadequate. E-A-Rfit takes the guesswork out of using hearing protection. Noise exposure data are entered, and the system identifies the most appropriate hearing protection. Employees are then trained to properly insert the hearing protectors, and the fit is tested using a microphone that measures the noise outside and inside the earplug. The microphone is attached to a computer, which calculates a personal attenuation rating (PAR). This is the degree to which the individual is being protected by a particular earplug. The goal is to achieve a 20 dB noise reduction.