There is no overstating the importance of ear protection. Excessive levels of noise – anything over 85 decibels – has the potential to irreparably harm hearing; a risk that ear protectors can help to minimize. If you are in the process of selecting your own ear protection for the first time, here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep in mind. 

Do: Check the Noise Reduction Rating

Most types of ear protection have a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which is measured in decibels. The idea is that you can subtract the NRR from the total decibels you will be exposed to in order to judge if a specific type of ear protection is right for you. 

Here’s how this works in principle: 

  • You are intending to go to a concert that will be 100 dB
  • To reduce 100 dB to below the safe threshold, you would need to choose ear protection with NRR of 15. 

However, in practice, things can be a little more complex, which we will discuss in more depth in the next point.

Don’t: Rely entirely on the NRR

While NRRs can be very useful when selecting ear protection, the NRR that is stated on the packaging may not necessarily be the decibel reduction a particular product is actually able to provide. It is advisable to reduce the NRR by the following percentages:

  • 25% for earmuffs
  • 50% for formable earplugs
  • 70% for all other types of earplugs 

So, if you are considering earmuffs with an NRR of 10 dB, the true, de-rated NRR would be 7.5 dB

Do: Consider selecting more than one type of ear protection

Additionally, bear in mind that you do not necessarily need to use just one type of hearing protection. You can, wear both earplugs and earmuffs at the same time if you feel you need an extra layer of protection.

Don’t: Forget usability 

Ensuring your hearing is adequately protected will always be the concern when choosing ear protection, but considering usability is also important. Earmuffs are usually easier to remove than earplugs. If you will only need ear protection for short bursts of time, then being able to take earmuffs on and off quickly as you move between tasks could be more convenient. On the other hand, if you will be exposed to loud noise for a long period, wearing earplugs could be the better choice, as they are more likely to stay in place. 

Do: Consider custom options

Store-bought ear protectors are designed to appeal to as many people as possible, which tends to mean that they are not perfect for any one individual. Given the importance of protecting hearing health, opting for customized ear protection from an audiologist is the simplest, most effective solution. As custom designs are always produced for your ears alone, they can deliver the most comfortable fit and ensure that your hearing health will always be as protected as required.