While earplugs may all look the same at first glance, there are many variations. In order to provide proper hearing protection and avoiding noise related hearing damage, it is important to choose earplugs that are suited for what you are doing. There are four types of earplugs we’ll look at, each with their own purpose and benefits.
Noise Reduction Earplugs
Noise Reduction Earplugs are the most common types of earplugs. These are designed to provide noise attenuation for a wide range of applications including: construction, factories, machine shops, yard work, concerts, aircraft, shooting, motorcycles, and concerts. Ear protection, such as noise reduction earplugs are required by OSHA for all workplaces with loud noises (above 85 dB).
There are a few different types of noise reduction earplugs – disposable, reusable, and custom fit. If you wear earplugs every day, you should consider reusable earplugs and may want to look into getting custom fitting earplugs, depending on how well off the shelf earplugs work for you. If you don’t frequently need to wear earplugs, disposable earplugs are probably sufficient.
You can also find noise reduction earplugs that have metal inserts in them. These are ideal for some industrial and culinary applications where it would be beneficial to pick up the earplugs with a magnet if they fell into anything.
While you can use generic noise reducing earplugs for shooting, many people who go to gun ranges prefer to use electronic ear muffs as their go to hearing protection. In some cases people will double up and put regular noise reduction earplugs in and then put electronic ear muffs on as well. When you double up on earplugs and ear muffs, you can calculate your new NRR by adding 5 dB to the highest NRR rating on either the earplugs or ear muffs.
Many people choose to wear earplugs for sleeping to help them get a better night’s sleep. While you can use general noise reducing earplugs for sleeping, they make sleeping earplugs to be more comfortable by using a softer and more flexible material. This way you can sleep all night without discomfort that might be associated with typical earplugs.
Concerts have very high decibel noise ratings and inherently put musicians at constant risk of hearing loss. Even recording or playing in a non-concert setting can expose musicians to heightened noise levels for extended periods of time, putting them at risk. If you’re a musician, you can get specially made music earplugs to protect your hearing.
Earplugs for Kids
If you are looking to protect your kids’ hearing, you might start off looking for earplugs for kids. Ear muffs are a much better solution for kids as you will likely get a better seal and have an easier time putting ear muffs on kids rather than putting earplugs in their ears, which will ultimately provide a better fit, seal, and ear protection for your kids. It also generally not a good idea to put things in children’s ears or encourage them to put things in their ears.
Other Types of Earplugs
Additionally, there are earplugs specifically designed for swimming and flying. These do not provide the same level of noise reduction as other earplugs but are designed to make those activities more enjoyable.