Hearing protection: the benefits of earplugs & earmuffs

Man working at machine wearing ear defenders

When you’re juggling multiple procurement requirements, it’s not always easy knowing which PPE products will provide the highest level of safety for your workers. This is especially true when it comes to hearing protection – deciding whether or not you should choose earplugs or earmuffs (also known as ear defenders). 

As a BSiF registered supplier of PPE – and having supplied PPE to a range of industries, including construction and healthcare – we’ve put together this article outlining the benefits of earplugs and earmuffs to help you make the best decision for your team. We then wrap-up with a direct comparison of the two, outlining which option is the best fit for your needs.

The benefits of earmuffs (AKA ear defenders)

The key benefit of earmuffs is ease-of-use. Users simply need to adjust the head strap to suit and they’re guaranteed a consistent level of noise protection throughout the day.

Since they’re so easy to put on and remove, they’re ideal for intermittent use – in environments where there’s not a consistent threat of above-average noise levels. Think construction or gardening.

Ear defenders sit directly over the ears, rather than inside the ear canal like earplugs, so they don’t offer quite the same level of protection. This doesn’t mean you should rule them out, however. Instead, you should assess the dB level of your work environment and check that the earmuffs provide adequate protection.

The benefits of earplugs

The key benefit of earplugs is the level of hearing protection they provide. As users plug them directly into the ear canal they can provide protection against higher dB levels than their ear defender counterparts.

This makes earplugs ideal for particularly loud work environments. Think airport workers, factory workers, and farmers using heavy machinery.

Unlike bulky ear defenders, they’re also extremely easy-to-use with other types of PPE. With earplugs, a set of safety goggles aren’t a problem to wear. But, with ear defenders, it can be a little more tricky to get the balance right without sacrificing hearing protection.

Earplugs vs earmuffs: which is better?

In order to decide whether earplugs or earmuffs are better, you need to assess what your industry-specific needs are. 

You should start by defining the level of hearing protection you need. For quieter, less frequent levels of noise, you could opt for ear defenders. Whereas consistently high dB levels will require the additional protection offered by earplugs.

You should also consider the climate your workers will be working in. For cooler climates, ear defenders are great but they can become uncomfortable in higher temperatures.

It should also be noted that ear defenders can provide a more consistent level of hearing protection. Although earplugs are technically better, if they’re not applied properly, their effectiveness can be compromised.

To counter-act this – especially if you’re procuring PPE for high dB levels – you should focus on delivering adequate training so that all workers are aware of the safest, most effective way to wear their earplugs.

Finally, whichever option you opt for, you should always look out for CE, EN and BS certification. These certifications – European Standard and British Standard – identify that the product meets both British and European safety standards – and are approved for use in the workplace. 

As an example, all of the PPE products we source, including earmuffs and ear defenders, have the relevant EN and BS certifications to ensure your colleagues are safe and that you’re operating within government safety guidelines.

For more information, delivered by our team of expert PPE specialists, make sure to also check out the following articles.

Looking to add hearing protection to your suite of personal protective equipment? Follow this link to shop our ear defenders and earplugs.