The importance of selecting the right ear protection
Posted 15th May 2018
Hearing protection is vitally important to those working in noisy environments daily.
BUT, if the protection provided by the hearing protection is too high, communication can become difficult and individuals can end up working in isolation or have difficulty hearing warning alarms or approaching vehicles.
There is no one size fits all solution to ear protection to cover all work activities and situations.
To choose the best type of hearing protection for your business, noise risk assessment results along with information from the PPE supplier need to be carefully followed.
When you are selecting hearing PPE, here are some of the questions you should consider:
- Does it provide the right level of attenuation - the right amount of sound reduction?
- Will it stop people hearing important sounds, such as warning signals and alarms?
- Is it suitable for the work environment - dusty, humid or hot?
- Is it compatible with other types of PPE?
- How comfortable is the hearing PPE to wear?
- Will individual users like it?
- How much will it cost to maintain and replace?
Types of Hearing PPE
The main types of hearing PPE are: Earplugs, Ear muffs, and Canal caps/semi-insert earplugs.
Ear plugs are inserted into the ear canals to protect them from exposure to high levels of noise. There are many types of ear plugs. Usually, they’re made from soft plastic, polyurethane, silicone or PVC. When fitted correctly, they’re comfortable and are an effective way of providing good sound attenuation.
Ear Muffs normally provide less protection than ear plugs, because they only sit over ears, rather than directly in the ear canal. They are very easy to fit, but they can become uncomfortable in hot environments.
3.Canal caps/semi-insert ear plugs
Both canal caps and semi-insert earplugs are convenient for jobs where the worker must frequently take their hearing protection on and off. Canal caps have rounded heads that cover the entrance to the ear canal. On the other hand, semi-insert ear plugs usually have conical tips that can be pushed into the ear canal.
Whichever type of hearing protection you choose, the most important factor is the level of noise reduction they provide when compared against the measured daily average exposure. Hearing protection will have a ‘dB’, or decibel rating – this indicates how much the noise is reduced. The overall aim should be to reduce noise levels at the ear to between 70 – 75 dB.
If ears are over-protected it can create additional safety issues, such as difficulties with communication and the inability to hear warning signals. Workers may become isolated from their environment, causing them to remove their hearing protection - which could lead to hearing damage.