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Best Hearing Protection: What Should You Get if You Want to Protect Your Hearing?

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Do you work in an environment with loud noises, like construction or factory work? Do you spend a lot of time around loud music? Do you enjoy the sounds of gunfire at the shooting range, or do fireworks make your heart beat faster? 

No matter what you are doing, no matter how loud it is, your hearing is always at risk. Ιf you don’t take steps to protect your hearing, your productivity and your safety could be at risk. It’s not enough to just wear hearing protection—you need to know which type of hearing protection is the best.

In this article, we will show you how to find the best hearing protection for your budget and needs.

When Would You Use Earmuffs or Earplugs?

People can experience noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) by being exposed to sounds at or above 85 decibels over an extended period of time. This is the same noise level as heavy city traffic, a food blender, or a powered lawnmower.

The first step to protecting your hearing is for you to be aware of when you really need to wear it. What noises could damage your hearing?

  • Long-term exposure to loud noise can result in hearing loss, but even short or intermittent exposure can cause problems that will increase over time. Common causes of long and short term damage include:
  • Long-term exposure to loud noise at work – for example, factory workers
  • Long-term exposure to loud noise through hobbies – for example, woodworking or shooting firearms
  • Short-term exposure to very high decibel levels while attending concerts or other events—for example, fireworks displays or rifle ranges.

Best Hearing Protection For Different Environments

ImageNameOur RatingPrice
3M WorkTunes AM/FM Hearing Protector - Best Hearing Protection With Radio3M WorkTunes AM/FM Hearing Protector - Best Hearing Protection With Radio
9.8
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Peltor Sport Tactical 500  - Best Hearing Protection For Indoor Shooting RangePeltor Sport Tactical 500 - Best Hearing Protection For Indoor Shooting Range
9.7
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3M WorkTunes Connect - Best Bluetooth Hearing Protection Overall3M WorkTunes Connect - Best Bluetooth Hearing Protection Overall
9.7
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3M PELTOR Optime 105 - Best Hearing Protection For Construction Work3M PELTOR Optime 105 - Best Hearing Protection For Construction Work
9.6
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SureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus - Best In-Ear Hearing Protection For ShootingSureFire EP4 Sonic Defenders Plus - Best In-Ear Hearing Protection For Shooting
9.5
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Decibullz - Custom Molded Earplugs - Best Hearing Protection For HuntingDecibullz - Custom Molded Earplugs - Best Hearing Protection For Hunting
9.4
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Eargasm High Fidelity Earplugs - Best Ear Protection For ConcertsEargasm High Fidelity Earplugs - Best Ear Protection For Concerts
9.2
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Mack's AquaBlock Swimming Earplugs - Best Ear Protection For SwimmingMack's AquaBlock Swimming Earplugs - Best Ear Protection For Swimming
9.1
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Vibes High Fidelity Earplugs - Best Earplugs For Air TravelVibes High Fidelity Earplugs - Best Earplugs For Air Travel
9.1
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Walker's Razor Slim Electronic Earmuffs - Best Hearing Protection For Lawn Mowing And  WoodworkingWalker's Razor Slim Electronic Earmuffs - Best Hearing Protection For Lawn Mowing And Woodworking
8.9
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Last update on 29th November 2021 / Affiliate Links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

How Much Noise Reduction You Need?

In order to choose the best hearing protection, you need to know what level of noise reduction you need. This will vary based on your environment and your activities.

Look at the noise reduction rating for all your options and choose a pair of hearing protection with a noise reduction rating that meets or exceeds the decibel level you are exposed to.

Noise reduction ratings tell you how effectively a hearing protection device blocks outside noise. A higher number means better protection. You will see two different types of noise reduction ratings on hearing protection devices: an SNR or SND rating, and a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR). The NRR is the most common and more widely used measurement in the United States.

SNR or SND – Single Number Rating

SNR noise ratings give you the average amount of decibels reduced across all frequencies while using a hearing protection device. You’ll see this measurement on some earplugs, and on custom-fitted ear molds.

NRR – Noise Reduction Rating

The NRR tells you the average amount of decibels that will be reduced when using a hearing protection device. You’ll see this number on all ear muffs and most disposable earplugs.

How Many Types of Personal Hearing Protection Are There?

  • Semi-insert earplugs – These earplugs are inserted into the outer ear but then extend into the ear canal. This offers a small amount of protection from water and wind as well as noise reduction.
  • Over-the-ear – These types of plugs have a soft cup that covers the entire ear to create an air seal and noise reduction.
  •  Earplugs – Earplugs are the best choice for most applications. They’re readily available, affordable, comfortable to wear, and easy to use. For high-noise activities, you’ll need hearing protection that provides at least 20 dB of noise reduction. You can then reduce the noise even more by blocking out some sound around you with earmuffs or other plugs.

There are several main types of earplugs:

  1. Swimming earplugs – These earplugs are made specifically to create a watertight seal and prevent water from entering the ears.
  2. Industrial earplugs – These earplugs can be made from a variety of materials, such as latex or vinyl, and come in several shapes.
  3. Flight earplugs – These earplugs are typically made of foam and are specifically designed to reduce noise in airplane cabins, making them popular among air travelers.
  4. Musician’s earplugs – These earplugs have a filter that reduces the overall volume but still allows you to hear music and conversations around you.
  5. Bike earplugs – Earplugs for cyclists are made of soft silicone so they can fit in the ear comfortably without falling out.
  6. Shooter’s earplugs – These earplugs are specifically designed to protect the hearing of shooters. They often come with different noise reduction filters so you can hear other people while shooting, but still reduce the overall volume.

When it comes to earplugs, you can find buy:

  • Disposable earplugs, which you can use for a single event and then throw away.
  • Reusable earplugs, which you can wash and reuse like other clothing or athletic equipment.
  • Custom-molded earplugs, which are made to fit specific ear canals for maximum comfort and noise reduction.

Electronic Ear Protectors VS Passive Ear Protectors – Should You Buy Earmuffs or Earplugs?

Which one is best for your needs? Here’s what you need to consider:

Earmuffs — These operate by creating an air seal around your ear and providing a physical barrier between your eardrum and the outside noise. They work in two ways: they provide passive protection if they block out noise entirely or active protection if they use electronics to generate white noise that cancels out the harmful sounds. Earmuffs tend to be bulky and heavy, so they are not comfortable for all activities—especially long-term use. They tend to be used for short-term protection, such as at a shooting range or during a fireworks show.

Earplugs — These are typically made from foam or silicone and fit inside your ear canal. They’re designed to be comfortable and easy to store, but you need to make sure the right size is used for the best effect. You can choose from disposable or reusable types. This type of protection is lightweight and small, so it is comfortable for long-term use, such as a full day at a shooting range. Some types of earplugs block all outside noise, while others let you hear some sounds around you, but reduce the overall volume.

No matter which one you choose, make sure that it’s suitable for the tasks you need them for:

Construction – You should choose 30 dB or higher to protect your hearing from the sounds of tools and heavy machinery.

Woodworking – If you work with loud machines such as table saws and floor sanders, you should wear protection that provides at least 25-30 dB noise reduction. Earplugs for shooting firearms, however, should provide at least 20-25 dB of noise reduction.

Industrial – If you work in a factory, you will need 30 dB or more of noise protection to keep your hearing safe.

Shooting – Target shooting produces sounds that are about 125 dB. Earplugs or earmuffs may both be used for protection, but earmuffs will provide you with the best protection for this activity.

Concerts – If you are going to an indoor rock concert, you should look for noise reduction in the range of 15-20 dB. The same level is recommended if you are attending a classical music performance or any other acoustic-heavy event.

What to Consider When Buying Hearing Protection

NRR rating – Noise Reduction

This is one of the most important features to look for when buying hearing protection because it lets you know exactly how much damage can be prevented. However, this rating is often misunderstood, so here are a few things you should know about this number:

NRR ratings are tested in controlled environments by professionals who make sure that measurements are accurate. This means that the testing is not necessarily representative of how the product will work in real-world situations.

NRR ratings are tested over many noise frequencies, which is important because the sound of an object hitting metal has a different frequency than someone shouting. The NRR rating is not linear—meaning that if you purchase a hearing protection device with an NRR of 10, it might not reduce the volume by exactly 10 dB. This will vary depending on the intensity of the noise.

NRR ratings are for continuous exposure to consistent sound, so if you need hearing protection for intermittent use, you will need a device with a higher NRR rating than what is rated on the box.

Hearing loss is cumulative over time, so it is important to protect your ears as much as you can. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommends that noise exposure in the workplace not exceed 85 dB over eight hours—this is also the legal limit across America, Canada, and Great Britain.

Fit and Comfort

The best hearing protection is not useful if you don’t wear it. There’s no point in investing in a high-quality product if it ends up sitting on your dresser because you can’t stand wearing it for even half an hour, let alone all day at work.

If you can’t stand to wear them for long periods of time, then you’ll have to find a way to make them more comfortable. Some products come with soft material that makes them easier on your ears, while others have cushions that hook around the outer part of your ear canal so they remain fixed in place.

Earplugs are the best option for shooting firearms because they reduce the sound dramatically without distorting it, so you can still hear what’s going on around you. Earmuffs are better suited to people who work in factories and need to protect their hearing while still being able to hear co-workers and machinery.

High-fidelity earplugs are musicians’ best option to preserve their hearing, as they can hear the music clearly and still enjoy protection from excessive sound. Technology makes it easier than ever for musicians to wear custom-fit professional musician’s earplugs that do not interfere with their ability to hear the music at a safe level.

Bluetooth Connectivity and Communication

If you work in a noisy environment, then the ability to connect your device via Bluetooth can make a huge difference. Not only can it provide better hearing protection, but also it allows you to access phone calls and other audio.

For people who use hearing protection while hunting or shooting, it is important to be able to communicate easily. Products that come with Bluetooth integration allow you to pair them with your phone. Not only does this let you answer calls without having to take off your earmuffs, but it also lets you connect them to other devices like your music player.

Many models now also come with an app to integrate your device with other technology such as your music player and phone. You can even use some products to track your hearing over time and see if you have a loss in sound.

Some devices allow you to attach a microphone and speaker to the side of your earmuffs, allowing you to hear better and be heard more easily than with traditional earplugs or headphones.

PPE compatibility

Some models come with tight-fitting ear cushions, while others have hook-and-loop attachments that wrap around the outside of your ears.

Earplugs sit in your outer ear canal and offer a low-profile option that doesn’t interfere with your glasses. However, if you move around a lot (or work in a very active environment), then they can fall out.

Earmuffs fit around your outer ear and can be adjusted to a snug fit to prevent them from falling off. The downside is that they protrude farther from your head, which could affect your ability to wear a hard hat or other safety equipment.

FAQ

What Are Hearing Protectors?

Hearing protectors, also known as earplugs or earmuffs, are devices designed to reduce the volume of sounds that reach your ears. They’re commonly used at workplaces where loud noises (such as machinery) could cause irreversible damage to workers’ hearing. The most common hearing protection is earplugs, which are inserted into the ear canal. Earmuffs fit over the entire outer part of your ear to form an air seal that blocks sound from entering through the ear canal.


How Do Hearing Protectors Work?

Hearing protectors work by reducing the volume of sound reaching your ears. Some active noise-canceling earmuffs come with microphones that measure the intensity of sound in the environment, then create inverse waves that cancel out the noise before it reaches your ears. There are also noise-activated earplugs that automatically adjust their volume depending on the loudness of surrounding noise.


How Do You Clean Hearing Protection?

Hearing protectors should be cleaned regularly to remove dirt and debris, especially earplugs. To clean earplugs gently wash them with warm water and mild soap then dry thoroughly before putting them back in your ears. Alternatively, disposable wipes are available that can clean your earplugs without having to rinse them.


What Is the Proper Way to Wear Hearing Protection?

To ensure an effective seal, make sure you place foam earplugs correctly in your ears. The flange should fit snugly around the outside of your ear canal for maximum noise reduction. To put on earmuffs, gently pull the headband away from your head while holding the cups against the back of your ears. Then let go of the headband and adjust it until it fits snugly on your head. To get a comfortable fit, make sure that your earmuffs are level on both sides.


Should I Wear Hearing Protection All the Time?

Hearing protection is recommended any time you’re exposed to loud noises. Even short-term exposure can lead to tinnitus or permanent hearing damage. If you are exposed to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels, you should wear hearing protection following the 4-to-1 rule: reduce your exposure time by a factor of four for every increase in sound level by 3 decibels. For example, if you’re exposed to 88 decibels of noise, your allowed exposure time should be reduced to just 2 minutes.


What Are the Benefits of Wearing Hearing Protection?

You’ll reduce your risk for hearing loss when you wear hearing protection in loud environments. Over time, constant exposure to loud noises can cause tinnitus – a ringing or buzzing sound in your ears that can be permanent. Hearing protection is also recommended for children and young adults because their ear canals are smaller than adults’, making it easier for loud sounds to damage their hearing.


How Do I Know What Size Hearing Protection to Wear?

You should wear the smallest size that fits comfortably in your ear. People with smaller ear canals should use foam earplugs to ensure a good fit, while people with larger ears may be able to wear earmuffs.


How Long Does It Take for Hearing Protection to Work?

After you insert your hearing protectors correctly, they will reduce volume levels almost instantly.


How Long Are Hearing Protection Effective?

Hearing protectors will last several years if properly cared for. It’s recommended to replace earmuffs or earplugs every 3 to 5 years since the materials can lose their elasticity over time.


Is It Safe to Wear Both Earplugs and Earmuffs at the Same Time?

Wearing earplugs and earmuffs at the same time is generally safe. However, it’s recommended to only wear hearing protection one ear at a time if you can.


How Do I Properly Store Hearing Protection?

Hearing protectors should be kept clean and stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Keep your hearing protectors in their case when you’re not using them, and avoid twisting or bending them as this can cause damage.


What Is SNR and How Does It Relate to Hearing Protection?

SNR (Single Number Rating) is a scale that represents an earplug’s or earmuff’s ability to reduce noise. The higher an item’s SNR, the better its ability to attenuate noise is. Earplugs typically range between 10 and 33, while earmuffs can go up to 50 or higher.