The workplace is a potentially dangerous place for anyone’s health, especially in physically taxing occupations, such as construction. Safety standards and precautions are set up for most of these workplaces; however, one of the most overlooked precautions is hearing protection. Anyone who works in a high-risk job for hearing damage should know which earplugs offer the best protection and what to look for when shopping for high-quality and work-safe earplugs.
Understanding Noise Reduction Rating
Decibels (dB) are the unit of measurement for sound, and finding the right earplugs requires knowing what decibel range of protection you need. For reference, whispering is about 30 dB, speaking at a normal volume is about 60 dB, and the sound of a running lawnmower will be about 90 dB. The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of a set of earplugs helps you determine how much sound the earplugs can block.
For example, if you find a set of earplugs that offer an NRR of 60 dB, they should reduce sounds by 60 dB with appropriate use. That means if you are attending a concert with sound levels around 120 dB and you wear earplugs with a 60 dB rating, they should realistically reduce the concert volume from 120 dB to around the range of a normal conversation at 60 dB. If you wore plugs with an NRR of 30 dB, they would reduce the concert volume to around 90 dB instead.
Types of Earplugs
Aside from NRR, you also need to find the right type of earplugs for you. There are soft earplugs that comfortably and snugly fit in your ear openings and earplugs with more rigid construction to ensure appropriate hearing protection and easy insertion and removal. You can also find moldable earplugs that you flatten and roll between your fingers so they fit into your ears, then expand and conform to the shape of your ear canal for a perfect fit.
If you need earplugs for work, ask your employer if they have any data concerning sound levels in your workplace so you know what NRR earplugs to purchase. If you work in an area that requires getting dirty, disposable earplugs can help prevent ear infections and you can start each shift with a fresh pair.
If you want to purchase a high-quality set of earplugs there are several varieties available, some designed for specific purposes:
EarPlanes. These earplugs are for air travel and feature a unique construction designed to filter out plane engine noise. They are perfect for air traffic controllers, flight attendants, and other airport personnel. EarPlanes have an NRR of 20 dB and cost about $14 for three pairs.
EP4 Sonic Defenders. These heavy-duty earplugs are perfect for landscaping work with lawnmowers, trimmers, and working with noisy equipment like vacuum cleaners and construction tools. They feature a rigid, over-ear construction to help keep them in place while working and have an NRR of 24 dB. One pair costs around $14.
Hearos Xtreme Protection. These disposable earplugs offer a stellar NRR of 33 dB and only cost about $10 per pack of seven pairs. These are great for people who work in dusty or dirty work environments and need reliable, affordable disposable earplugs.
These are just a few of the best options for workplace earplugs. Since they are relatively affordable, it is worth it to take the time to try a few different varieties and find out which ones are best for your workplace.