Why is Hearing Protection Important

Why is Hearing Protection Important

You can best protect your hearing by avoiding loud sounds altogether, distancing yourself from the source of the noise or reducing the volume of any loud noise you are exposed to. However, sometimes these options aren’t available, in which case it would be best to use hearing protectors such as earplugs or ear muffs. These devices can decrease the intensity of loud sounds to a safer level, preventing damage, and the hearing conditions it can cause.

High levels of noise exposure can harm delicate structures in your inner ear. This can cause noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears). How quickly your ears can be damaged by a loud noise depends on how loud the noise you were exposed to was. If the sound you’re exposed to is loud enough, your hearing can be damaged immediately. Even sounds that are not necessarily the loudest might cause hearing loss over time if they are repetitive or exposure is constant. 

In this blog we will outline the significance of hearing protectors in depth, taking note of their significance and utility. 

What is considered too loud?

The Decibel scale begins at 0 (the threshold of human hearing) and is a logarithmic scale by which sound level is measured. Sounds that are considered safe are 70 A-weighted decibels(dBA) or lower. At 85 dBA or higher sounds become capable of causing significant damage to your hearing. To help you get a practical gauge of decibel ratings, here are some examples of decibel ratings for sounds that you would be frequently exposed to:

  • Normal conversation: 60 to 70 dBA
  • Lawnmowers: 80 to 100 dBA
  • Motorcycles and dirt bikes: 80 to 110 dBA
  • Music through headphones at maximum volume, sporting events, and concerts: 94 to 110 dBA
  • Sirens from emergency vehicles: 110 to 129 dBA
  • Fireworks display: 140 to 160 dBA

If you are exposed to noise levels that are equal to or above an average of 85 decibels over an eight-hour period, you should use PPE(Personal Protective Equipment) hearing protection. There are situations where lab professionals might be exposed to noise levels that exceed the harmful amount, so it is important for them to note what noise levels are considered excessive. PPE can serve as a precautionary tool to combat harmful noise levels, but in the case that an unexpected noise occurs, it would be best to cover your ears immediately and move away from the loud noise. 

Characteristics of different hearing protectors

It is important to choose a type of hearing protector that you are comfortable with so that you will use it consistently and appropriately. Hearing protectors don’t completely block out sound, so you’ll want to compare Noise Reduction Rate(NRR) when choosing your equipment. The higher the NRR of the hearing protector, the better it blocks out sound. Another characteristic that you should look out for when choosing hearing protectors is selecting a pair that allows enough noise to pass through that you don’t have to take them off when speaking to someone in a loud environment. 

As with any important protective equipment you are purchasing, don’t be afraid to ask a professional for some guidance.


Earplugs are one of the less costly options for a hearing protector.  You can find earplugs of various sizes, and some earplugs can also be custom-molded to your ears. While some are low cost, disposable items, others have long cords attached to them to stop you from losing them.

  • Formable foam earplugs

The soft foam makeup of these earplugs helps them to fit in your ear comfortably. Formable foam earplugs are generally designed to be used once, however, they can be used twice if they are still clean, and can expand back to their original shape after their first use. 

  • Pre-molded earplugs

Pre-molded earplugs are usually made of plastic, rubber, or silicone. An example of pre-moulded earplugs is high-fidelity (hi-fi) earplugs (also referred to as “uniform attenuation earplugs”). Their effect on sound is similar to having someone turn down the volume on a stereo, they evenly decrease sound intensity across different pitches. 

  • Canal caps

Canal caps have a stiff plastic band that is attached to earplugs and holds them in place in your ears. The band is also useful because it can be hung around your neck when not in use. 

Steps for using formable foam earplugs

  1. Hold the earplug in between your fingers and roll it into a thin tube shape. Try to avoid creasing the foam so that you don’t disrupt the tunnels in the earplug that allow some sound to enter. 
  2. Pull the top of your ears upwards to straighten your ear canal and make inserting the earplug easier. 
  3. As you place the earplug into your ear canal continue to gently roll it. The earplug should fit evenly across the opening of your ear.
  4. To give the earplug time to expand, hold it in your ear for 20-30 seconds. 
  5. Check that the earplug is positioned correctly in your ear; it should barely be visible. 
  6. Follow these steps again for the other earplug.
  7. Make sure you don’t cut or tear earplugs in an attempt to fit them in your ear. This will reduce their effectiveness. It’s worth opting for another type of hearing protector if foam earplugs don’t fit correctly or aren’t comfortable for you. 
  8. To remove earplugs twist them gently against your ear canals to break the seal and then carefully remove them from your ear.

Steps for using pre-moulded earplugs

  1. Using your opposite hand pull the top of your ear up and back to straighten your ear canal.
  2. Use your other hand to tightly hold the stem of the earplug, and carefully insert the earplug into the canal by moving it back and forth until it’s properly inserted into the ear canal.
  3. To pull pre-moulded earplugs out of your ear, slowly move them back and forth to use your ear canal to break the seal.

Steps for using canal caps 

  1. Hang the band on your head so that the earplugs are next to the opening of your ears. 
  2. Insert an earplug one at a time. 
  3. Carefully pull the top of your ear up and back with your opposite hand to straighten your ear canal. 
  4. Place the tip of the cap into your ears, applying enough force to get them to fit firmly in your ear. 
  5. If the tips are made of foam, carefully squeeze them between your fingers before you place them in your ears. 
  6. Follow this process to get the second canal cap in your other ear.

For hearing protectors to work effectively they must be placed into your ear properly. A good way to tell whether you have properly inserted the earplug is if your voice sounds different afterwards. Putting earplugs in your ear should not be a discomforting feeling, but the difference should be noticeable. Once you have inserted the earplugs they should feel comfortable, and secure in your ears. The more frequently you use earplugs the better you will be able to fit them in your ear. 

Ear Muffs

Ear Muffs are hearing protectors that usually have padded plastic and foam cups connected by an adjustable headband. They reduce noise by covering both ears entirely. People tend to find earmuffs a lot easier to operate than earplugs. It is useful to remember that hair and facial hair might interfere with the effectiveness of ear muffs because i could act as an obstruction between the ear muffs and the ears. 

Steps to using ear muffs

  1. Carefully pull each ear muff away from each other.
  2. Allow the band of the earmuffs to go over the top of your head. Then place the cups of the ear muffs over your ears entirely. Ear muffs with adjustable headbands tend to be helpful, because you can adjust for size and fit.

Hearing protection is important as it safeguards your ears against temporary or permanent hearing damage. In the lab you might be exposed to experiments that cause high levels of noise, making hearing protectors an essential piece of equipment. If you are concerned about your hearing in the workplace, we have various hearing protectors for you to choose from. And any other lab supplies that you are looking for can be discussed with our team of experts who would be more than willing to help you select the perfect solution for your lab needs.