Hearing Protection

The Recommended Sign of Hearing Protection

When worn correctly, hearing protection reduces noise exposure below the recommended exposure limit. However, it can be ineffective if workers remove it for brief periods to speak or listen.

Each year, more than 22 million workers are exposed to loud sounds that can cause permanent hearing loss. Posting ear protection recommended sign in high-risk areas can help workers avoid injuries.

Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)

The NRR rating is one of the most important things to look for in hearing protection. This number shows how well the device can protect your ears against damaging noise. Hearing protection comes in earplugs (which fit into the ear canal) and earmuffs that cover the entire ear, providing more coverage and hearing protection.

The higher the NRR, the better the protection. However, the NRR is not a precise measure and may differ between different manufacturers and users due to factors like size, shape, and fit. NRR calculations are often derated to reflect this variability.

For workers in loud environments, wearing protective earplugs or earmuffs is vital to keeping your hearing healthy. Especially for jobs where you’re regularly exposed to 85 decibels or more over an 8-hour shift. Be sure to wear a pair of HPDs that match the size and shape of your ears/head and create a good seal. For added protection, use double HPDs with a combined NRR that’s higher than the individual NRR of the devices you’re using, which can add around 4-8 dB of protection.


Earplugs are an excellent tool for preventing noise-induced hearing loss. They are inexpensive and easy to use, particularly foam plugs made from polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane (memory foam) which can be pinched or rolled into a compact shape and then inserted into the ear canal where they expand to fill it. These types of earplugs are often used by musicians and other people attending loud music concerts, or at work in environments such as factories and construction sites.

While earplugs do significantly reduce the amount of sound reaching the ears, they are not a complete solution. Any noise over the earplug’s Noise Reduction Rating will still be heard; however, noise is less loud and more tolerable. Earmuffs, which sit over the ears, are also available and are a good option for industrial workers and those who spend long periods of time outdoors or travelling on planes or trains. They are generally comfortable and easy to wear.


Earmuffs can cover both ears at once and are easier to wear correctly than earplugs. However, a good fit is required to ensure effective protection. Workers with thick facial hair or glasses may have difficulty achieving a comfortable fit with earmuffs.

A good quality pair of earmuffs can provide excellent protection at the cost of being slightly heavier than other forms of hearing protection. The weight can also lead to discomfort after long periods of use and reduced ability to communicate with others or hear warning and alarm signals.

Earmuffs generally have more attenuation at high frequencies than low, which can reduce the clarity of sound and make communication difficult. To overcome this problem some earmuffs are designed with flat frequency response using mechanical filters. These protectors are often marketed to musicians but can be useful for anyone needing a balanced attenuation across all frequencies. They can also be worn with earplugs (dual protection) providing an additional 5 dB of noise reduction.

Canal Caps

The Rock Band Hearing Protector, designed for younger workers and available in five exciting colors, offers a comfortable alternative to earmuffs. Soft, reusable pods gently cap off the ear canal and two flexible arms distribute pressure evenly.

Formable foam earplugs that expand to fit the shape of the ear canal and provide an NRR of 33dBs. They should be rolled into a thin, crease-free cylinder prior to insertion and inserted into the ear canal.

Pre-molded earplugs that fit into the ear canal, providing an NRR of 33dBs. These are better suited for individuals with narrow or curved ear canals and can be inserted by hand. Canal caps, which are like earplugs but partially inserted into the ear canal, can also be used for brief periods. However, they do not seal as well and are not as effective for long-term wear or at lower noise levels. Therefore, they may not prevent ringing or buzzing in the ears after leaving a noisy environment.

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