Hearing protectors are personal protective equipment that, due to their sound attenuation properties, reduces the effects of noise on hearing, thus avoiding damage to the hearing. Ear protectors reduce noise by obstructing its path from the source to the ear canal. However, what is the best type of ear protection for people who have exposure to loud noises? 


Earmuffs are made up of a metal or plastic head harness that holds two caps that are almost always made of plastic. This device completely encloses the external ear and is applied hermetically to the head by means of a foam plastic or liquid-filled pad. Almost all earmuffs have an inner liner that absorbs sound transmitted through the shell designed to improve attenuation above approximately 2,000 Hz. 

On some of these devices, the headgear can be worn over the head, behind the neck and below the chin, although the protection they provide in each position varies. Others are mounted on a rigid helmet, but tend to offer less protection, because this type of mount makes it more difficult to fit the earmuffs and does not adapt as well as the headband to a variety of head sizes.

The shape of the ear cups and the type of padding and the tension of the headgear attachment are the factors that determine to a greater degree how effectively the earmuffs attenuate ambient noise. Almost all earmuffs provide attenuation approaching bone conduction of approximately 40 dB for frequencies of 2,000 Hz or higher. The low-frequency attenuation capacity of a well-fitting earmuff is determined by design and material factors such as bowl volume, bowl opening area, headgear pressure or weight. Other times they can be coupled to a protective helmet, in this case they consist of individual caps attached to arms fixed to an industrial safety helmet, and which are adjustable so that they can be placed on the ears when required.


Earplugs are worn in the external ear canal. Pre-molded earplugs are available in one or more standard sizes to fit most anyone's ear canal. The castable are made of a soft material that the user adapts to his ear canal to form an acoustic barrier. Custom earplugs are individually manufactured to fit the wearer's ear. 

There are vinyl, silicone, elastomer, cotton and wax earplugs, spun glass wool and slow recovery closed cell foams. External plugs are held by pressing them against the opening of the external ear canal and have a similar effect to plugging your ears with your fingers. They come in one size and fit most ears. They are sometimes provided with an interconnect lanyard or a lightweight head harness.

  • Level-dependent protectors: They are designed to provide protection that increases as the noise level increases. 
  • Protectors for active noise reduction (ANR): These are hearing protectors that incorporate electro-acoustic circuits designed to partially suppress the input sound to improve the protection of the user. 
  • Communication earmuffs: The earmuffs associated with communication equipment require the use of an overhead or cable system through which signals, alarms, messages or training programs can be transmitted. 

Earmuffs, however, are more difficult to carry and protect, making them more cumbersome for people but both do provide adequate support. So really the choice is down to lifestyle factors and what you find more comfortable in the given situation. There are many reasons to choose either one but depending on the type of noise, you should opt for muffs for outdoor noises and also industrial sounds.

If reusable earmuffs or earplugs are used, steps must be taken to keep them clean. In the case of earmuffs, the user must have spare parts, such as pads or inner liners of the bowl. When using disposable plugs, you need to have enough new units to replace. 

If reusable earplugs are used, a cleaning device must be installed. Users of custom earplugs should have facilities to clean them and new plugs to replace worn or broken ones. For more information relating to noise exposure and for more information on what will work best for you, contact Audiology and Hearing Aid Center today at 920-969-1768.