Posted at Friday, 24 June, 2022

Earplugs to shout about with 3M

Paul Skade
By Paul Skade
Category Manager, Industrial MRO and Safety

I’ve been in the Tools and MRO industry since leaving school 45 years ago. I’ve enjoyed a wide and varied career in a variety of Sales and Procurement roles in th...

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Have you heard? There’s a revolutionary new earplug available. According to Bryan Myers – 3M’s Business Director with responsibility for hearing protection – it’s the first in more than 20 years to offer ‘multiple new, innovative and patented benefits to the user.’ So why exactly is it such a big noise?

Earplugs to shout about with 3M

 

The risk of hearing loss in noisy working environments is understood better now than it was. So most employers now do the right and safe thing, by providing employees working in these conditions with hearing protection. But the most appropriate and effective protection hasn’t always been the most comfortable or easiest to use. Which often means it’s no longer effective, because it’s in someone’s pocket, on their workbench or in their locker, instead of in their ear.

3M improved the situation when, in the 1990’s, they introduced the first ‘push-to-fit’ foam earplug. The foam improved the comfort and fit, and the ‘push-to-fit’ plastic fitting stem made it easier to use and insert the earplug properly, even with gloves on or with dirty hands.

The idea was so successful and effective, a whole range of different shapes and sizes of foam ear tips has been developed by 3M, to fit ear canals of an equally different shapes and sizes. These include the Push-Ins™, Push- Ins with Grip Rings™, Push-Ins™ Softouch™, No Touch™, Torque™ and Pistonz™.

And now, the next-generation push-to-fit earplug – the 3M™ E-A-R™ Flexible Fit HA Ear Plug– is coming to ears in noisy industrial environments everywhere.

Giving hearing protection a hand

If earplugs are going to work effectively, they have to be inserted properly. That’s easy when, for example, someone is showing you what to do in a training room. But when you’re on a busy factory floor, and you’ve got dirty hands or you’re wearing gloves, it’s much harder.

Unless you’re using the new 3M Flexible Fit HA.

Firstly, this earplug has been carefully designed and manufactured to balance stiffness and flexibility. The soft foam ear tip can be pushed into the ear without being squashed, and without having to be rolled down – or touched at all, in fact.

So there’s no need for the user to wash their hands or even take off their gloves before inserting the earplug. Just push to fit, and the flexible fitting stem guides the soft foam tip into the ear canal to where it needs to be.

It’s so easy to insert, it can even be done properly with just one hand, and still provides hearing protection to a Single Number Rating (SNR) of 30dB. Inserted with two hands, the SNR rises to 35dB.

The plug for the sink

Even though there’s no need to touch the foam ear tip with hands, it still gets dirty when it’s inside the ear canal. So instead of the foam used for traditional earplugs, 3M have used a patented TPE foam for the Flexible Fit HA. This is the first fully washable foam, and can be washed in a sink with mild detergent and water after each use.

Like any earplug, the Flexible Fit HA should be replaced at once if the foam tip is damaged, is coming away from the stem, or loses its softness and pliability. But otherwise, careful washing means that these earplugs can be used for up to two weeks from first use.

So users get the comfort of a foam earplug, with the washability and longer life of a reusable earplug. Or as Brian Myers, 3M Business Director for Extreme Hazard, Hearing Protection & Connected Safety explains it: ‘Users get the best of both worlds, and more.’

Flexible fit for purpose

Whether the 3M E-A-R Flexible Fit HA earplug is being fitted with one hand or two, the technique is the same.

The earplug should be inserted into the ear until the sides of the cone-shaped foam tip are inside the ear canal, and invisible from the outside. For a user with a larger ear canal, it may be necessary to insert even deeper, while a user with a small or sharply curved ear canal may not be able to insert as deeply.

When the earplug can only be inserted less deeply, its effectiveness should be verified by fit testing.

 

For more information on Safety Solutions and to get in touch with one of our ERIKS Specialists, please contact your local ERIKS Service Centre, who will be happy to discuss your options.

#3M #ERIKS #LetsMakeIndustryWorkBetter #Safety #Earplug #Washable #Innovation

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