Professional Hearing Protection - How to Choose

Hearing Protection Basics


Devices (earmuffs, ear plugs) that protect an individuals hearing are rated by NRR. The NRR rating of headsets typically is in the range of 22 to 25dB, and earplugs can attain up to 29dB of noise reduction. Some products, exceed these ratings, such as the X5A headset, which attains a NRR of 31dB. Important to note, is that wearing earplugs and earmuffs, do not result in a combination of NRR. For example, Earplugs with an NRR of 29, and earmuffs with an NRR rating of 25dB, do not result in an NRR of 54dB. All devices assume proper fit and use. Typically, earmuffs are much easier to use correctly, but provide slightly less protection than earplugs.

Types of protection


Earplugs are inserted into the ear canal, and provide a mechanical blocking method of blocking noise from reaching our hearing organs and damaging them. Earplugs must be inserted properly, and must be adjusted regularly, as they will naturally tend to work themselves loose over time. Earplugs come in a variety of types. Banded come with a plastic band that attaches the earplugs together, and provides a small force that pushes the earplugs together, helping to alleviate the issue where earplugs work loose over time. Corded earplugs have a string that attaches two ear plugs together so that you always have a pair, and you can hang the earplugs on your neck when not in use. Some earplugs are metal detectable for the food industry or areas where product must not be contaminated. Others come with posts that aid in ear insertion.

Ear muffs

Earmuffs provide hearing protection by surrounding the ear, and blocking noise. Earmuffs are particularly useful in that they are easy and quick to apply, do not work loose, and come in a range of sizes, colors and styles. They can become hot, and various types of ear cup material can be used to provide extra comfort. Additionally, using headsets provides a clear indication of hearing protection in use for environments where confirmation of use is necessary

Passive Hearing Protection

Passive hearing protection is just that. All sounds are blocked at the same levels. This means that damaging sounds are blocked just as much as other sounds like communications etc. Often times, with earmuffs, you will see people pulling an earcup off and leaning in towards people they are communicating with. Obviously, when this is happening, hearing protection has been compromised

Active Hearing Protection

While still providing the same levels of protection as passive hearing protection, active hearing protection adds microphones (environmental microphones) that detect ambient sounds, and transmit those sounds to speakers inside the hearing protection. When the system determines a sound has exceeded a set threshold, the damaging sound is blocked, or transmitted at a much lower level. Other methods of protection actually produce sound waves that cancel out or reduce impulse noises as well. Active hearing protection is desired when communication is necessary or damaging noise levels are intermittent or impulse in nature.

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