Hearing ProtectionEarmuffs

Difference Between Active and Passive Electronic Hearing Protection

5 Mins read
Hearing Protection

Our world is increasingly becoming noisy, especially in urban & industrial settings. With so much happening around us, it is hard to shut ourselves from the cacophony day to day living. Today’s noisy surroundings have increased the need for hearing protection, subsequently giving rise to the number of hearing protection devices flooding the market. There are multiple options to choose from. 

electronic ear muffs
Electronic Earmuffs

From different kinds of disposable earplugs and custom-fit earpieces to a variety of earmuffs, the sheer range of hearing protection products available in the market makes it an overwhelming process to choose the right one.

The range of options might be many, but most of these devices are broadly categorized into two types of hearing protection – Active and Passive. So, what’s the difference?

Active electronic earmuff

Passive hearing protection

A passive hearing protection is typically an earmuff which uses its battery to operate radio and Bluetooth while keeping the level of attenuation almost the same.

Active hearing protection

Active hearing protection, on the other hand, not only uses a battery for radio and Bluetooth but also amplifies the surrounding sounds while attenuating harsh noises. This makes communication a lot easier. While these are the main differences between active and passive hearing protection devices, let’s look at how they differ in more detail.

What’s the Difference Between Active and Passive Electronic Ear Protection?

Hearing protection devices are available in different forms and styles. Their main aim is to provide attenuation of noise by creating a barrier between the wearer’s ear and the source of the noise. These are especially useful at workplaces where the noise level is high, as long-term exposure to such loud noises can result in permanent hearing loss or other similar damage to the ear.

These ear protection devices are broadly categorized as active and passive and there are some basic differences that one must be aware of.

An active hearing protection device comes with electrical and digital components that actively suppress surrounding noise. The earplug, earpiece, or earmuff doesn’t actively do anything to suppress or amplify the noise, rather the electronic elements present in the device carry out these tasks.

Noise reduction rating chart

Recommended Exposure Limits (REL) by OSHA  and NIOSH.

Recommended Exposure Limits (REL) by OSHA and NIOSH.

A passive hearing protection device, on the other hand, are devices that provide a simple form of barrier between the ear canals and the source of potentially dangerous noise.

The market is filled with a number of different options and devices that act as passive protection devices as they are simpler and less complicated. 

Some examples of passive ear protection devices are foam ear plugs, custom-fit earpieces, and plain and non-electrical earmuffs. None of these products has any electrical or digital component working towards suppressing or amplifying the ambient noise.

Do I Need Active or Passive Hearing Protection?

Usually, active hearing protection devices are believed to be more effective compared to passive ones. However, that doesn’t necessarily make them better. It all depends on the kind of user requirement. 

If it is important for a user to be able to hear normally while wearing the ear protection device, then using an active one would be a better option as they suppress the surrounding noise better without curtailing the normal hearing ability of the user.

If it is important for the user to completely cut out and block the damaging noise, then using a passive ear protection device would make better sense.

What Features Should I Look For?

Today’s marketplace provides ample choices to consumers. The same is true for hearing protection devices as well. You can choose from a variety of products as per your requirement and the surroundings. Let’s see them in detail:

  • Level-Dependent Devices

These earmuffs relay the low sounds detected on the outside of the earmuff and send them to the speaker mounted inside the earmuff. The higher, more dangerous sounds are attenuated. They are great for noisy environments where loud sounds are not continuous and make communication easier.

  • Active Noise Reduction

These devices are great for high-intensity noisy environments as they provide extra attenuation through an in-built noise cancellation circuit with a higher noise reduction rating. Hence, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they entail high noise reduction rating. They attenuate low-frequency sounds like that of the machines while allowing higher-frequency sounds like speech and emergency warning signals.

  • Electrical Audio Input

These are earmuffs with electrical audio input, and it covers products with electrical communication devices. They allow wearers to communicate even when they are wearing noise-cancellation or hearing-protection devices.

  • Level-Dependent Earplugs

This feature is great for ear plugs with an electronic sound restoration system. It subsides the higher level of sounds while the lower-level sounds are amplified by sending them to the speaker mounted on the inside of the earplug. This device is also useful in environments where high-level sounds are not continuous and still makes communication possible.

  • Entertainment Audio Earmuffs

These are mostly used in non-workplace environments like travel, etc. These entertainment earmuffs attenuate the low-intensity noise of an aircraft, allowing users to hear songs, etc. and are often designed such that they could be connected to mobile devices through an audio input jack.

Knowing these different kinds of earmuffs and earplugs allow users to choose the ones that perfectly fit their requirements and function according to the surrounding environment. Hearing protection devices are important add-ons at places where you can be exposed to exaggerated noises. 

Electronic ear muffs are especially helpful in work environments where employees get exposed to such sounds for long hours on a daily basis, and are desperately in need of noise reduction. While both active and passive hearing devices are good at doing their job, you can choose the electronic muffs that perfectly matches your requirement. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Electronic Ear Protection

Why are hearing protection devices important?

Prolonged exposure to loud sound, especially at workplaces, can potentially lead to hearing damage. Thankfully, noise reduction technology offered hearing protection devices that attenuate disturbing noises, can offer the much needed hearing protection. There is a wide variety of electronic hearing protection devices with Bluetooth capability is now available in the market. These devices help block the ear canal such that the ears are well protected from the damaging loud sounds.

What are the different kinds of hearing protection devices available in the market?

While there is a variety of hearing protection devices available in the market, they are broadly categorized into two types – active and passive. Active protection devices feature electrical or digital components used to actively suppress disturbing noises from the surroundings. 

On the other hand, passive muffs simply provide a barrier between the user’s ear canals and the source of the noise. Some examples of passive hearing protection devices are solid custom-fit earpieces, non-electric earmuffs, and foam earplugs.

How to choose between active and passive protection devices?

Active hearing protection devices usually provide higher protection as they come with electrical or digital components attenuating the surrounding sounds, complete with independent volume controls. However, that doesn’t necessarily make them a better option every time. 

Whether you choose an active hearing protection device or a passive one will depend on your requirement. If you need to communicate while wearing a hearing protection device, an active one is more suitable as they only attenuate the surrounding sounds. But if you wish to cut down all kinds of noises, then a passive one will be a perfect choice.

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