Health & Biohacking Workshop
Choose the Right Ear Protection for Loud Jobs

When working around noisy equipment, ear protection is essential to not causing damage. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration sets the limit to which a worker should be exposed during an 8 hour day to 90 decibels on an A-weighted scale (dBA).

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends a more conservative 85dBA for this value. Since according to NIOSH, a hand drill comes in at 98dBA, and a belt stander is 93dBA, Makers certainly need to protect their ears!

Fortunately, there are many effective ways to stop this noise from getting to your ears while working with power tools! Here are several solutions for keeping your ears safe.

Earplugs

sb-Ear-Earplugs

Generally your first line of defense against excess noise, wearing earplugs will reduce the noise in your ear by around 25–30dBA. If there’s a question whether or not the noise is too loud where you are working, it’s a good idea to wear these.

Earmuffs

sb-Ear-Earmuffs

Earmuffs offer a similar level of noise reduction as earplugs, but have the advantage that they are slightly easier to remove and replace if the noise is intermittent. Also, they can be shared more hygienically than earplugs, although the pads should probably be wiped off. Finally, for extremely noisy environments, earplugs and earmuffs can be worn at the same time.

Earmuffs with Electronics

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Yet another advantage of earmuffs is that they can have electronics integrated into them. Some have a microphone on the outside to let tolerable-level noise in, while keeping loud noises out. This is great for intermittent-noise situations, such as if you’re using a miter saw. Some are also capable of being used with an MP3 player.

Environment

Although not technically “Personal Protective Equipment,” it’s always a good idea to see what you can do to keep your environment quiet. Noise-absorbing material can be found at a reasonable price, or sometimes quieter power tools can be found for your purpose.

Final Word

Although I have some experience in an industrial environment, and making things, I don’t claim to be a safety expert. If you’re not sure whether or not what you’re doing is safe, or if your equipment is up to the task of protecting you, be sure to ask someone with the appropriate experience!

6 thoughts on “Choose the Right Ear Protection for Loud Jobs

  1. Ah the classic $2 earmuffs from Harbor Freight. <3 I'm staring at my daily use pair resting behind my keyboard as I type this comment.

  2. They have earplugs with electronics in them too. ESP and EAR are two companies that make some very amazing digital or analog ear plugs but are very expensive if you don’t use them daily. Then you also hae some like radians that uses and over the ear, earplug. This is almost like a hearing aid. The electronics are worn behind the ear while a tube goes over and into the ear plugs.

  3. Its always worth checking the spec of the earplugs (and to some extent the full defenders). Some plugs filter less than others, or work better at different frequencies. For little things, using foam ones is your best bet (especially on a low budget!). Usually disposable, but fit best due to the expandable nature of them. Reusable ones, while good, need to fit properly to be effective. If they don’t fit properly, they will leak noise, be uncomfortable and generally unhelpful.

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Jeremy is an engineer with 10 years experience at his full-time profession, and has a BSME from Clemson University. Outside of work he’s an avid maker and experimenter, building anything that comes into his mind!

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