Disposable earplugs are said to be the most economical and hygienic type of hearing protection. They are therefore considered to be the perfect solution to protect your hearing. We wanted to look into a bit more detail about whether disposable earplugs would be suitable for the work you are carrying out, and things you need to consider when choosing hearing protection.
Types of Hearing Protection
Before we delve specifically into disposable earplugs, here are the four main types of PPE hearing protection available:
- Disposable earplugs
- Banded or corded earplugs
- Earmuffs (often referred to as ear defenders)
- Helmet mounted ear muffs/defenders
Earplugs are generally the highest form of hearing protection, as they physically plug your ear canal. This means that the sound pressure reaching your eardrum is significantly reduced. There are several different types of earplugs available. Some are disposable, and are thrown away after each use, while others are washable and can be used multiple times. Earplugs can be banded, corded, or loose, and often come as pairs in individual packets for hygiene purposes.
Earmuffs / ear defenders work by covering the entire ear with a sound-deadening cup, held against the head with the over-head band. As the name suggests, they ‘muffle’ the sound pressure that enters the ear, through the use of foam material inside the cup casing.”. It is extremely important that these are fitted correctly so that there is a seal between the ear cups and the head.
Attenuation is the process in which noise energy is lost. There are lots of different types of earplugs, and they offer different levels of protection. Some environments will require protection that decreases the level of noise reaching the ear canal, whilst still allowing the wearer to hear properly. Therefore, they are ideal for employees who either have some hearing loss already, or are exposed to low levels of hazardous noise.
Some hazardous environments only require a small level of attenuation – enough to protect the worker, but not too much that they might cause other safety issues. In general, disposable earplugs have a fairly high attenuation, so they block a higher level of noise energy. The precise level of attenuation is dependent on the fit within the ear canal. As example, our standard earplugs have an attentuation of 34dB in comparison to our earmuffs ,which have an attenuation of 27dB.
Earplugs or Ear Defenders?
When choosing the right hearing protection, it is important to look at the pros and cons of each type.
Ear defenders have fewer variations – one size usually fits all, especially because most ear defenders have built-in adjustability. They are easier to see at a distance which makes them ideal for workers communicating with each other within a manufacturing or warehouse environment. Ear defenders are also harder to lose, and can be worn if the wearer has an ear infection. The main disadvantage of ear defenders is that they are heavy, less portable than earplugs, and can be difficult to wear with safety goggles.
Disposable earplugs are small and lightweight, and can be worn with other types of hearing protection if required. The disadvantages of earplugs is that they require more time to fit them correctly. They might irritate the ear canal, and can be a less hygienic type of hearing protection if care isn’t taking to have clean hands when inserting them.
Replacing Hearing Protection
When placing large orders of hearing protection equipment for your staff, it is important to consider how regularly the different types of hearing protection need to be replaced. This allows you to choose the most cost-effective, safe option for your team. Banded earpods should be replaced when:
- The product starts to show wear and tear
- The earbuds are no longer pliable
- The headband itself is stretched
- For normal use, it is advisable to replace them every 6-8 months
Disposable earplugs should be replaced:
- Daily (or after each use) as they can retain bacteria easily
- If they are unable to withstand being washed
Ear defenders should be replaced:
- When the product starts showing signs of wear and tear
- When the ear cushions degrade
- If the headband is stretched
- Every 6-8 months for normal wear
We hope this blog has helped to give you more information about disposable earplugs and whether they are the right choice for you or your employees. If you would like any further information about our hearing protection product range, please email the team – [email protected].