When you work at a job site that produces up to 85 decibels of noise or more, it’s required that you protect your hearing. It is totally possible for your hearing to be damaged gradually without you having any idea it’s happening, which is one of the reasons earphone manufacturers recommend that you play music under a specified volume.
You should consider making use of ear protection every time you handle firearms, power tools, or any form of loud equipment. Without it, your hearing may end up being damaged if you are exposed to loud noise for long periods of time.
However, it’s not uncommon for workers to shun warnings about protecting their hearing in the work environment, seeing it as cowardly or uncool. But protecting your ears now is an important investment that will save your hearing later in life, cool or not.
The two most common ways to do this are earmuffs and earplugs so which one should you choose?
What Are Ear Plugs?
Earplugs are small plugs that are inserted into the ear canal to ensure that noise is considerably reduced in intensity by the time it hits your eardrums, dampening it to bearable levels. This may sound really advantageous but, later on in this post, we will consider some of the potential disadvantages of using earplugs.
They are designed using noise-dampening materials that reduce sound when it passes through them. When your earplugs stand between your eardrums and the sound that is coming from your immediate environment, they absorb most of the sound. This way, they effectively protect your hearing and keep it healthy.
Advantages of Ear Plugs
The major advantage that earplugs bring to the table is protection. they fit into your ear canal seamlessly and are generally regarded to provide more protection than ear muffs. They are, therefore, perfect for a workplace that puts you at risk of very high noise levels, including airports, factories, and foundries.
Another advantage of earplugs is that they are really light, which makes them easy to wear, to the point that you might even forget they’re there. When not in use, they can be carried around with ease and can fit into your pocket as they aren’t at all cumbersome or weighty.
If you have a cause to wear any other type of PPE, then you probably want to stick to earplugs because they will fit into your ear canal easily and stay out of the way. For this reason, they are recommended for people who have to wear safety goggles and helmets at work.
Disadvantages of Ear Plugs
While they are easy to carry around and lightweight, earplugs can be difficult to fit into the ear canal. Their ability to filter sound and reduce noise intensity rests on the fact that they are well-fitted. This is the only way you can enjoy full protection but how do you achieve this if your chosen plugs won’t fit into your ear?
Most of the time, workers need to receive training on how to fit these plugs efficiently, which may be seen as a waste of time and money for some employers. And if you have an ear infection, it is almost impossible to wear earplugs. Even if they do fit, they can be very uncomfortable and you may have to remove them almost immediately.
What Are Earmuffs?
Earmuffs are worn over your ears, blocking out unhealthy noises that may cause damage to your ears. They are often considered to be outdated because they are large and worn over the ears, rather than earplugs that fit into the ear and provide relatively similar levels of protection in a smaller package.
Earmuffs were designed to protect your ears from noise and keep them warm at the same time. They are mostly made using thermoplastic or metal headbands that would usually fit comfortably over your ears. To ensure that your external ear is completely covered, the cups are well-cushioned.
It can be difficult to differentiate earmuffs from regular headphones at first glance. In fact, they may perform the functions of headphones, depending on how modern their design is.
How Do Earmuffs work?
They will usually block sound only up to 23 decibels and this may actually be considerably lower in real-life situations. While ordinary ear muffs will reduce sound intensity by between 33 percent and 74 percent, some noise will still end up passing through the material.
This doesn’t prevent people from using them, as they seem to be more appropriate in a work environment, but it has been proven that ear muffs do not attenuate sounds as much as earplugs. You should always check the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) when choosing a device to protect your hearing.
Earmuffs also are ineffective with blocking out infrasonic frequencies so they won’t help you deal with low frequencies.
Advantages of Ear Muffs
The most profound advantage of earmuffs is that they are easy to put on and take off, unlike earplugs for which you need specific training to use. This is why earmuffs are best suited for landscaping and construction works, as well as intermittent use.
Another advantage of earmuffs is mostly enjoyed in cooler regions of the world. They protect the wearer from cold and are really comfortable because the ear cups are usually cushioned and completely cover the ears. In warmer climates, they may not be as comfortable since they’ll end up humid and too warm.
Disadvantages of Earmuffs
Earmuffs may be easy to fit but they simply don’t offer as much protection as earplugs because they only sit over your ears rather than inside the ear canal itself.
They can be very uncomfortable in warmer regions because of the heat buildup that is likely to result from wearing them and they tend to lose their efficiency over time as they get worn.
Finally, they can be really uncomfortable when worn with PPE such as safety goggles and helmets, which could also lead to inefficiency in the long run.
Earmuffs vs. Ear Plugs: Which Should You Choose? (Wrap Up)
Different strokes work for different folks. While earplugs seem to offer more protection from noise and are portable, they are not easy to fit and can never be shared. Earmuffs, on the other hand, are easy to fit, provide you heat, and still offer you a lot of protection from noise.