Differences Between Earmuffs vs Earplugs

Differences Between Earmuffs vs Earplugs

“People should wear a hearing protector if the noise or sound level at the workplace exceeds 85 decibels (A-weighted) or dB(A). Hearing protectors reduce the noise exposure level and the risk of hearing loss.”

Long term effects of high sound levels and hearing protection is one of the most high profile safety issues in all industries. Studies shows that properly fit roll-down foam earplugs offer more protection from noise than the typical earmuff. In terms of blocking noise, bigger is not necissarily better.

Select hearing protection that is comfortable enough to be accepted and worn. When choosing a hearing protector consider the following number of factors: Comfort, Level of noise and suitability for both the worker and his environment. Most importantly, the hearing protector should provide the desired noise reduction. It is best, where protectors must be used, to provide a choice of a number of different types to choose from:

There are advantages and disadvantages associated with the use of either ear muffs or ear plugs:


Ear plugs are inserted to block the ear canal. They may be premolded (preformed) or moldable (foam ear plugs).
They can be molded to fit the ear or be mass-produced and can either be disposable or reusable. They are less expensive than muffs, simple to use and a lot more comfortable – even in hot or damp work environments. Unfortunately they do sometimes provide less protection than mufs if not inserted properly. They are also not that visible, and cannot be readily checked by supervisors to see if workers are wearing them.


Earm muffs consist of soft ear cushions and sound-attenuating material that fit perfectly around the ear and outer cups. they can vary of material and the depth of the dome as well as the force of the headband. The deeper and heavier the dome, the greater the low-frequency attenuation provided by the protector. To maintain a proper seal the headband must fit tightly enough to maintain a proper seal, yet still be comfortable. Earmufs are easier to fit than ear plugs and generally more durable. They are more expencive and less comfortable than ear plugs, especially in hot work areas. In areas where noise levels are very high, muffs and plugs can be worn together to give better protection.

Comparison of Hearing Protection:

Earplugs Keypoints:

• Easily Carried and samll.
• Convenient to use with any other personal protection equipment, it can also be worn with ear mufs.
• Better wear in hot or humid work areas.
• More convenient in a confined work area.
• Better ear protection.

• Requires a bit more time to fit.
• Difficult to insert and remove.
• Needs good hygiene practices.
• May irretate ear canal.
• Easily misplaced.
• More difficult to monitor usage and to see.
• Inappropriate for people with ear infections

Earmuffs Keypoints:

• More variability among users.
• One size fits all.
• Easily seen so use can be monitored.
• Not easily misplaced.
• More Comfortable.

• Heavier.
• Less Portable.
• More inconvenient when used with other personal protection equipment.
• Uncomfortable in hot or humid work area.
• Inconvenient for use in confined work areas.
• May interfere with the wearing of safety or prescription glasses: wearing glasses results in breaking the seal between the ear muff and the skin and results in decreased hearing protection.
• Lower level of noise attenuation / protection.

The problem of combining both of these hearing protection units is also the main reason people do it – a higer level of noise blockage, which could create a hazard in itself due to lack of sensory perception of surrounding noises by the listener. The key to protection if using both plugs and muffs is to ensure that the plugs are fitting correctly – if this is done, then low or medium rating ear muffs can be used to increase the protection above plugs alone.

The Employer should provide hearing protection in a number of different types of which workers can choose from, keeping in mind any safety or hygienic reasons for not providing a particular kind of protector. That is, a particular type of protector should not be provided as an option if the noise levels are to high or it proves to be unhygienic. For example, ear plugs which are used in a plant setting where people reuse them throughout the day, often reinserting them with dirty fingers, can introduce dirt and bacteria into the ears, causing ear infections.

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