What you need to know about hearing protection

November 15, 2011 by Michèle Veilleux
More and more, programs for health and safety require employees exposed to noisy work environments to wear ear plugs to preserve their hearing.

With all the varieties available, it can sometimes be difficult to understand how hearing protection works. What type of hearing protector to use? Standard ear plugs or moulded to the ear?  How to use them? And finally, are they really effective?

Hearing protection reduces the intensity level of the noise. If you have used them before, you know that they don’t completely eliminate noise, but simply reduce it.

In general, we can find the theoretical intensity attenuation on the hearing protectors packaging. This value is theoretical and isn’t the actual attenuation observed in practice. In fact, the actual attenuation is greatly influenced by the placement of the ear plug and the seal obtained by it. Many workers don’t place the ear plugs correctly and therefore the protection is reduced. When choosing hearing protectors that are moulded to the ear, the adequate placement is simpler which increases the attenuation.

For the placement of the ear plugs, it’s important to pull the ear back so that the ear canal opens up before introducing the protector, which was previously reduced to its smallest size (rolled) depending on the model. After, the ear is released and the ear plug is held in place for 30 seconds so that the volume can expand and completely fill up the ear canal. Certain models don’t need to be reduced in size before insertion.

As for ear muffs, placing them over the ears doesn’t guarantee their efficacy. For that, there shouldn’t be any obstacles between the ear muffs and the head. Therefore, they shouldn’t be placed over a hat or even glasses. If this is the case, the seal will be reduced as well as the protection.

Different types of hearing protection exist, but they don’t all have the same effectiveness. For a proper choice, one must evaluate their needs and their work environment. Take note that personal preferences and characteristics must be taken into consideration.

Hearing protection which is used the most is one that is adequately chosen and accepted! 

Disposable ear plugs

Ce qu’il faut savoir sur les bouchons protecteursDisposable ear plugs have the advantage of being inexpensive and permit a better adjustment than reusable ear plugs and hearing bands. Then again, their placement is more difficult and the insertion isn’t generally optimal. Therefore, the protection is reduced. In addition, they are easily soiled and must be changed regularly.

Reusable ear plugs

Ce qu’il faut savoir sur les bouchons protecteursReusable earplugs are also inexpensive and permit a more optimal insertion. On the other hand, they must be selected to fit the workers ear canal size and aren’t recommended for workers with abundant ear hair.

Hearing bands

Ce qu’il faut savoir sur les bouchons protecteurs

The hearing band is such that the ear plug is simply pressed against the opening of the ear canal, therefore the protection is reduced. Nevertheless, they are inexpensive, easy to use and facilitate intermittent usage.

Ear muffs

Ce qu’il faut savoir sur les bouchons protecteurs

Ear muffs are easy to use and adjust. They are considered useful for those who must have an intermittent use of hearing protection. They are easy to clean and have a better attenuation of low-pitched sounds (motors). On the other hand, ear muffs are not very comfortable in warm environments and are often inconvenient due to their size. Also, the use of a hat or glasses reduces its effectiveness.