Cleaning and hygiene disposables for occupational health personnel.
Medical devices such as audiometers will often come into contact with a variety of people throughout the working day, as equipment, instruments and devices are shared and handled with frequency among healthcare professionals. Thankfully, clinicians often consider not just the operator and patient’s hygiene, but also the cleanliness of the equipment itself.
Occupational healthcare professionals now face the question of whether to use disposable or reusable hygiene products when cleaning their equipment. Both options offer compelling pros and cons. We know for example that many disposables are generally unfriendly to the environment, despite the numerous ways they benefit the healthcare industry.
However, disposables certainly have their place alongside good cleaning regimes when considering the need for high levels of personal hygiene and sanitation. An important thing to remember when considering the options is identifying the degree of infection control required.
Hand hygiene plays a vital role in helping to lower the risk of cross contamination from personnel sharing and handling the same audiometer. Soap and water have been proven to be very effective at removing germs, bacteria1 and viruses23 when washing the hands for a long enough period. Unfortunately, efficient handwashing with soap requires stable access to an un-spoilt water supply and in third world countries this is not always possible.
Hand sanitizers are also a good alternative in water-constrained environments1. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been proven to deactivate enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses, though Golin at al. made the remark that sanitizers must “ensure complete hand coverage […] for appropriate hand care”. Hand sanitizers are also a good alternative when on the road, but enough solution must be used to provide effective protection, which unfortunately means greater use of non-disposable materials.
Gloves are another welcome solution for maintaining clean hands when soap or alcohol-based sanitizers aren’t desired, as they can sometimes leads to skin damage and soreness.
However, it’s important to remember that most gloves come in large packs which are not sterile (if not specified differently) or often used incorrectly (put on too early, taken off to late or not changed appropriately). According to Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Ceelular Microbiology at the University of Reading:
“Gloves should only ever be worn to protect healthcare workers from blood, bodily fluids or certain drugs.” 4
When it comes to product hygiene, we differentiate between the parts which are touched by the operator and those in contact with the patient. Ensuring good hygienic procedures amongst operators is still required for the audiometer to allow for adequate removal of contaminants of the device.
The parts of an audiometer which contact the operator should be cleaned using a soft cloth moistened with a mild solution of water and detergent or similar. Hard cover surfaces can be cleaned with 70% isopropyl alcohol and a variety of non-alcohol-based cleaning wipes which offer protection against several kinds of microorganisms.
If cleaning the audiometer is not desired for reasons such as protecting the hard cover, using protection foils to cover the audiometer keyboard is another option as they can easily be wiped off with a disinfectant or exchanged.
General precautions must be observed to avoid cross-contamination of disease from one patient to another. Those parts of the audiometer in contact with the patient (headphones and patient response switches) are required to be cleaned with each use, reducing the risk of patient colonization and infection.
After each patient examination detergent should be used for frequent cleaning, but in the case of severe contamination it may be necessary to use a disinfectant. In addition to regular cleaning, protective headphone covers for audiometric headphones are available to be used as disposables.
If no cleaning of the medical transducers is desired, insert phones are also a good alternative. Placing disposable ear tips in the ear canal of the patient while the transducers are clipped to the patient’s cloth, the contact area of the accessory and the patient become minimal. At the same time, those parts actually in contact with the patient are to be disposed after use and will not be in contact with another test subject. Cross contamination is thereby kept to a minimum.
In summary, the greatest asset of using disposables may be their lower probability of transmitting infection in comparison to reusables, which are a documented cause of cross-contamination if not cleaned appropriately. And in an era of rising costs, morbidity and mortality caused by healthcare-associated infections (HAIs)5, using proven methods such as good cleaning practices and disposables to reduce the spread of infection is paramount.
Together with clinicians, occupational health professionals, employers and employees, we strive to provide the best disposable hygiene solutions possible. Our most popular audiometry and spirometry hygiene consumable solutions are: Type IIr3ply surgical face masks, Ear Cushion Covers, Bacterial Viral Filter for spirometers, Clinell Universal Wipes, Foil covers and Promed nitrile gloves.
For more information on any of our disposable hygiene consumables please visit our hygiene consumables page, contact our customer support team on +44 (0)1865 880 846 or email us at email@example.com.
1Pickering AJ, Boehm AB, Mwanjali, Davis J. Efficacy of Waterless Hand Hygiene Compared with Handwashing with Soap: A Field Study in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Volume 82, Issue 2, 1 Feb 2010, p. 270 - 278
2Collignon PJ, Carnie JA. Infection control and pandemic influenza. Med J Aust. 2006; 185: S54-S57
3Grayson ML, Melvani S, Druce J et al. Efficacy of soap and water and alcohol-based hand-rub preparations against live H1N1 influenza virus on the hands of human volunteers. Clin Infect Dis. 2009; 48: 285-291
4Golin AP, Choi D, Ghahary A, Hand sanitizers: A review of ingredients, mechanisms of action, modes of delivery, and efficacy against coronaviruses. Am J Infect Control. 2020 Sep; 48(9): 1062-1067
5Addison N, Quatrara B, Letzkus L, Strider D, Rovnyak V, Syptak V, Fuzy L. Cleanliness of disposable vs non-disposable