The following is a summary from our March 18th, 2020, CrowdChat. As we monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, everyone is concerned with minimizing the spread of infection. Audiologists Renee Lefrancois and Vanessa Gauthier-Davidson shared best practices and guidance to stay safe with your occupational hearing testing programs.
Renee and Vanessa answered audience questions about their hearing testing programs and what can be done to protect test administrators and employees.
Before we begin, we should identify the different types of customers using SHOEBOX Audiometry. Various organizations are out there testing hearings on employees and patients. For hearing clinics and health care organizations, we recommend following the directives from your health care organization and/or licensing body regarding patient interactions.
These are the questions and answers that we fielded on our Crowd Chat:
Q: I would like to pause my testing; where do I begin?
A: Pausing routine hearing testing is likely on many individuals’ minds at the moment. For our Occupational Health organizations. It would be a good idea to take note of the employees who are due for their annual hearing testing over the next three months. Social distancing recommendations should take precedence over preventative testing. If you have your hearing testing in-house, such as with tablet audiometry, rescheduling is relatively straightforward and can be resumed the moment it is deemed safe to do so.
Q: What about OSHA timelines and potential audit situations?
A: Excellent question. Annual testing guidelines are important, but overall health and restricting unnecessary exposure are more important. We can’t speak for OSHA directly, but I would be hard-pressed to think that an OSHA Inspector would prioritize hearing testing over a potentially fatal and highly contagious respiratory illness. On March 15th, OSHA provided the following health and safety recommendations (https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf). Should additional confirmation be warranted, we recommend that you contact your local OSHA representative for further clarification. For occupational health organizations, OSHA and your professional supervisor can provide additional guidance during these challenging times
Q: How do you suggest we keep “social distance” from employees?
A: Thankfully, the messaging from the medical organization is clear here. Recommendations: schedule one employee at a time to avoid having a group to test at once. Schedule employees by leaving a “buffer” between them; 15 minutes between patients is recommended. If using SHOEBOX, disinfect the iPad and the headphones before the employee walks in and gets the test ready for them. Employees can complete a full test with the administrator being a minimum of 6 feet away. Ask the employee to wipe their headphones and iPad down with disinfecting wipes prior to leaving, after which you can clean them more thoroughly. Pre-arrival screening to ensure patients are not exhibiting signs of an illness can also be done by phone or email.
Q: If I need to continue testing, how should I proceed?
A: We recommend that you proceed with caution, as well as with additional precautions. Additional disinfecting practices, as well as social distancing, is strongly recommended.
Q: What type of disinfecting practices do you recommend?
A: Following the recommendations of your organization, clinic, or hospital is of the utmost importance. All equipment should be thoroughly disinfected after each use. A non-alcoholic wipe should be used to clean the headphones and padding. A disinfectant wipe can be used to clean the iPad or other industrial audiometer. Gloves are recommended when handling equipment in between patients. Ensure cleanliness of all surfaces as well (table, chair, iPad stand, etc.). For more detailed information, please refer to SHOEBOX’s blog article on infection control on how to minimize contamination.