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A Guide to Hearing Protection

Making the right choice

Permanent hearing loss can occur from repeated overexposure to excessive noise. Damage can be prevented by wearing proper protection. Style, fit, and comfort over extended periods are important when selecting hearing protection.

Additional Factors to consider include
  • Noise levels & exposure duration
  • Compatibility with other protective equipment
  • Equipment loss (if high, choose disposable; if low, choose reusables)

Types of Hearing Protection

Ear Plugs

Made from a variety of materials, and are positioned in the ear canal. Can be reusable or disposable and are available corded or uncorded. Designs include a simple canister shape and double or triple flanged models. A wide variety of colors aid in monitoring use and worker acceptance.

Disposable Ear Plugs
Reusable Ear Plugs
Corded Ear Plugs
Uncorded Ear Plugs

Ear Muffs
Cover and seal the entire ear. Sometimes worn in conjunction with plugs in high noise areas.
Banded Hearing Protectors
Flexible headbands for a comfortable seal. Offers several degrees of insertion for different levels of protection. Bright colors ensure easy compliance checks.

The Noise Reduction System

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is the measure, in decibels, of how well a hearing protector reduces noise, as specified by the Environmental Protection Agency. The higher the number, the greater the noise reduction. When dual protectors are used, the combined NRR provides approximately 5 decibels more than the higher rated of the two products. For example, using ear plugs (NRR of 29 decibels) with ear muffs (NRR 27) would provide a Noise Reduction Rating of 34 decibels.

*Noise Reduction Ratings are listed within the product description for each hearing protector.

Examples of Noise Levels

The amount of on-the-job noise exposure can be determined through various testing devices. Excessive noise is defined as 85-90 decibels or more over an 8 hour period.

A sampling of noise levels is as follows:
  • Normal Concentration - 60dB
  • Sanding - 85dB
  • Woodworking - 100dB
  • Power Saw - 110dB
  • Auto Traffic - 75dB
  • Subway - 90dB
  • Drilling (pneumatic) - 100dB
  • Gunfire - 120dB

Federal Safety Standard

Please refer to OSHA General Industry Standard 29 CFR 1910.95, "Occupational Noise Exposure." Other relevant sections include 1926.52 and1926.101.

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Questions about Hearing Protection?

Call our knowledgeable Technical Support Department at 1-800-571-4646, 8 am - 5 pm ET, Monday - Friday, or email us.

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