Earplugs or Ear Muffs – How to Choose Hearing Protection

If you have a job that requires hearing protection, then you’ll have to choose between earplugs or ear muffs at some point. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages. In order to choose the right one, you should consider what they offer. Our guide will look at the differences between plugs and muffs to help you make a smart choice.

3M Peltor Kid Earmuffs with Headband, 27 dB, Neon Green – Ear defender with comfortable wear for children - 1x Ear Protector in neon green

Ear Muff Benefits

The main advantage of using ear muffs is that they fit snugly. They don’t have to be specially made or prepared, and can be placed over your head. That makes them the ideal choice for intermittent use and they are particularly suitable for landscaping and construction work.

As ear muffs are easy to fit, they offer a reliable, consistent fit. That means that the protection the person wearing them gets will match the protection the ear muff claims to offer. That is important because workers might not always be able to fit earplugs properly.

For a cooler climate, ear muffs are the more comfortable choice when wearing ear protection for a prolonged period of time. For warmer climates, earplugs might prove to be more comfortable due to the humid, warm nature of ear muffs.

Drawbacks of Ear Muffs

Ear muffs are easier to fit, but they generally offer less protection than earplugs. That is because ear muffs only sit over the ears, instead of fitting directly into the ear canal like plugs. That ear muffs cover the ears can become a problem with hot environments, as the heat builds up and can become discomforting for a user.

Another problem with ear muffs is that they lose some of their protection when worn with other PPE, such as with safety glasses.

Earplug Benefits

The main advantage of using ear plugs is that they provide much better protection. As they fit directly into the ear canal, they can provide far more protection than basic ear muffs. That means that they are best when you need a lot of protection, such as in a loud workplace like an airport, foundry, or factory.

Earplugs are also easy to carry and fairly light. Given how small they are, they can be kept in specially designed cases that fit into your pockets. Ear muffs, on the other hand, are more difficult to carry and keep safe. They can be cumbersome for some workers.

If you have to wear other kinds of PPE, then earplugs might be the right choice. As earplugs fit comfortably into your ear canal, they can be worn with other PPE. That makes them a good choice for people who also have to wear things like safety glasses and helmets.

Drawbacks of Earplugs

The main drawback of using earplugs is how difficult they can be to fit. They need to be fitted properly to the ear canal for maximum protection, and that can be difficult to guarantee. If an employee is trained on fitting earplugs properly though, then they can consistently provide the necessary protection.

Another problem with using earplugs is that they are difficult, if not impossible, for those with ear infections to wear. Earplugs are not a good fit in those cases as they would likely be too uncomfortable.

No matter what kind of hearing protection you go with, the main factor to consider is how much hearing protection they provide. Hearing protection comes with a “dB” rating which indicates how much noise they reduce. It’s important that you understand how much protection you need. After determining that, you can choose the right earplugs or ear muffs for you.

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Photo Credit: “View from inside Marshmaster” (Public Domain) by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region