Medical devices such as audiometers are likely to come into contact with several people throughout the course of a day, as they get handed between different healthcare professionals. Thankfully, clinicians put as much emphasis on the cleanliness of the equipment as on the hygiene of the operator and patient.
The questions this then raises is whether to use disposable or reusable hygiene products to clean your equipment. We believe there are pros and cons to both.
We know for example that many disposables aren’t environmentally friendly, despite the numerous ways they benefit the healthcare industry. But they certainly have their place when considering the need for high levels of personal hygiene and sanitation. An important thing to remember when looking at your options is to identify the degree of infection control required.
Hand hygiene tips
Hand hygiene plays a vital role in lowering the risk of cross-contamination amongst personnel handling the same audiometer. Soap and water are very effective at removing germs, bacteria1 and viruses2/3 if you wash your hands for a long enough period. However, regular handwashing with soap requires unlimited access to an un-spoilt water supply, which in Third World countries is not always possible.
Hand sanitisers can be a good alternative in environments where water isn’t easily accessible1. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers have been proven to deactivate enveloped viruses, including coronaviruses. However, as highlighted by Golin at al. sanitizers must “ensure complete hand coverage […] for appropriate hand care”. Hand sanitisers are also a good alternative when on the move, but as a lot of solution is required to provide effective protection, this unfortunately means an increase in the use of non-disposable materials.
Another downside is that soap or alcohol-based sanitiser can sometimes lead to sore hands or dry skin. In this instance, professionals can use gloves to keep their hands clean. However, it’s important to remember that most gloves come in large packs which are not sterile (unless specified). They can also be used incorrectly (put on too early, taken off too late, or not changed appropriately), so it’s important to keep track if you choose to wear them. According to Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading:
“Gloves should only ever be worn to protect healthcare workers from blood, bodily fluids, or certain drugs.”4
Operator hygiene tips
When it comes to product hygiene, we need to differentiate between those parts touched by the operator, and those that come into contact with the patient. Good hygiene procedures amongst audiometer operators are essential to remove contaminants.
The parts of an audiometer which have been in contact with the operator should be cleaned using a soft cloth, moistened with a mild solution of water and detergent. 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 you would prefer to avoid wiping the hard surface, you can use protection foils to cover the audiometer keyboard, which can be easily exchanged or wiped with a disinfectant.
Patient hygiene tips
General precautions should be followed to avoid cross-contamination from one patient to another. The parts of the audiometer that come into contact with the patient (headphones and response switches) are required to be cleaned after each use, reducing the risk of patient colonisation and infection.
After each patient examination, use a detergent to wipe down the relevant parts, or in the case of a severe contamination risk, use a disinfectant. As well as the option of regular cleaning, disposable protective headphone covers for audiometric headphones are available.
If you want to avoid cleaning the medical transducers, 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, minimises contact between the accessory and the patient. The parts that do touch the patient are to be disposed after use so cross-contamination is kept to a minimum.
How we can support you
Overall, disposables are easy to use, and they lower the probability of transmitting infection compared to reusables (which are a documented cause of cross-contamination if not cleaned appropriately). In an era of rising costs, morbidity, and mortality caused by healthcare-associated infections (HAIs),5 using proven methods to reduce the spread of infection is paramount.
We strive to provide the best disposable hygiene solutions possible to help you do your work safely and efficiently. By listening to, and applying feedback from clinicians, occupational health professionals, employers, and employees, we have developed a range to suit all of your needs. 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 webpage, contact our customer support team on +44 (0)1865 880 846 or email.
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