Choosing Ear Protection

If you work in a loud environment, you have many options for protecting your ears. Why protect your ears? Prolonged exposure to loud noise can damage hair cells in your ears, leading to permanent hearing loss.

You may have to try several different types of ear protection until you find one that is comfortable enough to wear for the length of your work shift.

Expandable foam plugs are made from a formable material. You can roll the plugs into a small cylinder, then insert them into your ear canals. The foam will expand into the shape of your ear. People with smaller ears and ear canals may have trouble rolling the plugs small enough to fit into the ear canal, although some manufacturers do offer smaller sized plugs. However, you should make sure your hands are clean before rolling and inserting the plugs.

Pre-molded plugs may be made from silicone, plastic, or rubber. They are often available in several sizes, and should seal the ear canal without being uncomfortable. You may need to try several different sizes to find one that fits right; you may also need a different size for each ear. Pre-molded plugs are relatively inexpensive, washable, and reusable.

Canal caps are earplugs on a flexible band. The band may go over the head, under the chin, or behind the neck. When the work area is quiet, you can use the band to hang the earplugs around your neck. The earplugs are handy when the noise level goes up again.

Earmuffs block noise by completely covering the outer ear. Ear cup size varies; many different models are available. If you have a heavy beard, sideburns, or glasses, you may have a hard time getting the earmuffs to completely seal out noise. Earmuffs can also be hot and heavy in some environments.