Hearing Protection Guide & Types of Protectors

Hearing loss due to industrial noise is one of the most widespread, yet preventable workplace injuries. continual exposure to noise from machinery, tools, traffic and general workplace activity can cause significant, irreversible hearing loss.

Hearing loss has a dramatic impact on quality of life and may contribute to other safety problems, such as lack of awareness and reduced concentration. Correctly designed and fitted ear protection will keep industrial noise below harmful levels. The choice of the appropriate protection device for each job is also vitally important.

What types of hearing protectors are available?

Disposable Earplugs

Made from foam and are designed to be compressed and inserted into the ear canal, where they expand and seal against noise. These are economical, designed for single use and are available in uncorded and corded options.

Reusable Earplugs

Made from foam and are designed to be compressed and inserted into the ear canal, where they expand and seal against noise. These are economical, designed for single use and are available in uncorded and corded options.

Banded Earplugs

Consist of two earplugs held over the ends of the ear canal by a rigid headband. A convenient, easily inserted option for those who are constantly in and out of noisy areas or for intermittent use.

Metal Detectable Earplugs

Consist of two earplugs held over the ends of the ear canal by a rigid headband. A convenient, easily inserted option for those who are constantly in and out of noisy areas or for intermittent use.

Earmuffs

Consist of sound-attenuating material, soft ear cushions and hard outer cups that suppress unwanted noise by completely covering the outer ear. Held together by a headband. Available with a variety of features such as adjustable or foldable headbands, clip-on attachments for use with hard hats and radio/MP3 connections.

Comparison of Hearing Protection

Earplugs

Advantages:

  • Small and easily carried
  • Convenient to use with other personal protection equipment (can be worn with earmuffs)
  • More comfortable for long-term wear in hot, humid work areas
  • Convenient for use in confined work areas

Disadvantages

  • Requires more time to fit
  • More difficult to insert and remove
  • Require good hygiene practices
  • Easily misplaced
  • More diffiuclt to see and monitor usage

Earmuffs

Advantages:

  • Less attenuation variability among users
  • Designed so that one saize fits most head sizes
  • Easily seen at a distance to assist in the monitoring of their use
  • Not easily misplaced or lost
  • More diffiuclt to see and monitor usage

Disadvantages:

  • Less portable and heavier
  • More inconvenient for use with other personal protective equipment
  • More uncomfortable in hot, humid work areas
  • Moreinconvenient for use in confined work areas
  • May interfere with the wearing of safety or prescription glasses: wearing glasses results in breaking the seal between the earmuff and the skin and results in decreased hearing protection.