Just as you need to protect your feet with boots and your hands with gloves, you also need to protect your ears with high-quality protection. After all, power tools, loud machinery, and other equipment can do severe damage to your hearing. In this article, we’ll help you choose the best hearing protection for power tools on your next DIY job.
Why (and When) You Need Ear Protection
Let’s get serious: any noise above 70 dB is capable of damaging your hearing. For reference, a garbage disposal is about 85 decibels, a power saw or mower is 110, and your average rock concert is 140. The point is: your hearing is always at risk, so it’s smart to wear proper protection whenever you can. And while I might not convince you to “plug up” when running the garbage disposal, I hope I can at least convince you to do so when you pick up the power tools.
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Now, there are several types of construction site hearing protection:
Each one has its own pros and cons, as well as special subtypes that can make them more effective in certain situations. Below, we’ll go over each type in detail and provide you with our picks for the very best products in hearing protection. Let’s get started.
Hearing Protection Earplugs
Earplugs are light, inexpensive, and usually much more comfortable than more oversized protective products like earmuffs. They’re great for when you’re using power tools or mowing the lawn, as you don’t need to take them out and put them in over and over. Another benefit is that they don’t interfere with other protective gear like helmets and goggles.
The problem with earplugs is that they’re only effective if they fit tightly inside your ear canal. And since they are going inside your ear, they need to be either brand new (disposable, for example) or cleaned every time you use them to prevent bacterial infections. Now, there are a few subtypes of earplugs you should know about:
These types of earplugs are extremely common, particularly in bulk, disposable form. To insert them, you simply compress them with your fingers and place them in your ear. After a few seconds, they will expand to plug the space. You don’t always get the best fit with these, but they will protect you from high decibel noise as long as you insert them properly.
Our Pick for Best Earplugs: Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs
Mack’s earplugs are the #1 Doctor recommended brand when it comes to disposable options. They’re not only super comfortable and easy to use, but you can get 50 pairs of them for around $10. Don’t worry – they’re effective as well. In fact, they can reduce noise by up to 33dB.
Flanged earplugs are a more permanent, washable option made of silicone or plastic. The ribbed design allows them to better fit the ear canal, providing a more reliable seal to block out noise. As an added benefit, they usually come with a cord that you can put around your neck in case they fall out. The only issue with these plugs is that you have to keep your fingers clean at all times or risk a nasty infection.
Our Pick for Best Flanged Earplugs: Quality Plugs Reusable Earplugs
If you’re looking for high-quality flanged earplugs, you’ll want to get the most bang for your buck. These simple corded silicone plugs are individually wrapped, perfect for a variety of activities, and super soft. When one pair stops fitting just right, simply toss them and open up a new set.
Hearing Protection Earbuds
Believe it or not, earbuds aren’t just about listening to music hands-free – they can actually provide a decent amount of hearing protection. With some of the more advanced models, you also get the added benefit of being able to make Bluetooth phone calls. Like plugs, they fit directly into the ear canal, blocking out unwanted noise. However, in this case, you also get the option to replace that noise with some of your favorite tunes.
Our Pick for Best Hearing Protection Earbuds: ISOtunes Bluetooth Earplug Headphones
When not playing music or allowing you to make wireless phone calls, these earplug headphones reduce noise by up to 27 dB! They also feature a noise-canceling microphone, a strap to keep them securely in place, and a rechargeable battery that lasts for up to 8 hours at a time. Protect (and entertain) yourself all workday long.
Hearing Protection Earmuffs
When it comes to maximizing noise cancellation, you want to invest in a good set of over the head earmuffs. These are designed with special foam cups to cover your ears completely, blocking out loads of harmful sound waves. Unfortunately, they can be quite uncomfortable – especially if you’re working in a hot environment. They can also interfere with your other protective equipment, preventing you from getting a good, reliable fit. Still, if protecting your ears is priority #1, earmuffs are the way to go.
Our Pick for Best Hearing Protection Earmuffs: 3M PELTOR Optime 98 Earmuffs
These state-of-the-art earmuffs are perfect for the job site and are rated for noise exposure up to 98 dB. The 3m plastic hearing protection earmuffs are designed in helmet attachable and over-the-head versions, so you should have no problem wearing them with your other equipment. The liquid and foam-filled cushioning is super comfy, and the cups are uniquely designed to pivot as you move your head. Best part of this hearing protection for power tools, they’re not that expensive – especially considering they come from a top-notch manufacturer.
Hearing Protection for Power Tools – Conclusion
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which type of hearing protection for power tools you go for, as long as you’re wearing it (and wearing it properly). The noise reduction rating is also something you want to pay attention to, as you need to ensure each set of plugs, muffs, or buds can keep noise levels within an appropriate range. Of course, we hope you’ll consider our hearing protection picks the next time you go shopping for ear protection.