Picking the Right Earplug

The information below is designed to help you select the best ear plug for your application. The effectiveness of earplugs is specified by a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) typically ranging from 15-35 decibels. The higher the rating, the greater the protection provided. In practice the protection that normally can be achieved is about 10-20 decibels. It is important to note that more carefully you fit and wear hearing protectors, the higher your protection will be. Earplugs may feel uncomfortable at first, but give yourself a chance to get used to them, just as you do with a new pair of shoes or glasses.

Protector Type Description How to Use
Foam Earplugs
Disposable foam ear plugs are made from expandable slow-recovery foam. These ear plugs provide the best combination of comfort and protection for most users. Once in the ear, foam ear plugs expand to provide a snug and secure custom fit. Foam ear plugs are the most widely used ear plugs on the market.

Slowly roll and compress foam plugs into a very thin crease-free cylinder. While compressed, insert plug well into the ear canal. Fitting is easier if you reach aroundthe head to pull the ear outward and upward during insertion.

Premolded Reusable Earplugs
Reuseable earplugs are made from flexible materials that are pre-formed to fit the ear. Although more expensive, reuseable earplugs can be washed and reused several times before they need to be discarded. Reach around the back of your head and pull outward and upward on the ear while inserting the plug until you feel it sealing. This may seem tight at first, especially if you’ve never worn earplugs. Carefully twist the plug to break the seal for a slow, safe removal.
Earmuffs have rigid cups with soft plastic cushions that seal around the ears to block noise. Muffs come in one-position or multi-position bands, and are also sold in styles for attachment to hard hats. Cushions may be filled with foam, liquid, or a combination; let personal preference be your guide. For sustained exposures to very loud noises, or if you feel the need for more protection, wear muffs and earplugs together (dual protection) for an additional 5-10 dB of noise reduction. Muffs must  fully enclose the ears to seal against the head. Adjust the headband so cushions exert even pressure around the ears to get the best noise reduction. Pull hair back and out from beneath the cushions. Don’t store pencils or wear caps under cushions. Thick or poorly fitting eyeglass temples may also cause some loss in noise reduction.


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