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How to Properly Select and Wear Hearing Protection

Wearing a hearing protection device is a great way to protect your ears from damage caused by loud noises. But deciding to wear hearing protection is only the first step. To minimize the impact noise has on your hearing, you need to choose the appropriate type of hearing protection for your setting—then wear it properly. Here are some easy tips for selecting and wearing the right hearing protection products.

Selecting the right product

All hearing protection devices serve a similar purpose, but they’re not all created equal. Some products are more appropriate for certain settings, and you might prefer the comfort and style of one product over another for regular use. When looking for a form of hearing protection, you’ll need to consider a few things:

  • Noise level: What is the noise level in the environment where you’ll be wearing hearing protection? Are you working with power tools at your job, or are you trying to reduce noise at a sporting event? This will help you identify how dangerous the noise level will be for your ears and how much sound reduction you need.
  • Noise-reduction rating: Every hearing protection device has what’s called a noise-reduction rating (NRR). This rating determines how effective the device is at reducing noise around you. The higher the rating, the more noise reduction the device offers when worn properly.
  • Comfort and fit: It’s important to choose a hearing protection device that’s comfortable for you. Some people may find certain types of earplugs (like wax or foam) uncomfortable due to the size of their ear canal. For earmuffs, you’ll want to find a pair that offers appropriate padding and pressure. Also, consider other equipment you may need to wear and how that may interfere with your hearing protection device.
  • Workplace requirements: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has regulations for noise control and hearing protection in certain industries and workplaces. If you need a hearing protection device for work, verify the regulations with your employer to ensure your selection adheres to them. 
  • Special requirements: If you’re choosing hearing protection equipment for a professional environment, you may require additional settings or features such as noise canceling technology, Bluetooth connection or AM/FM radio.

Wearing hearing protection properly

For your hearing protection device to be effective at reducing harmful noise levels, you must wear it properly. Too many people wear hearing protection products incorrectly, which leaves them vulnerable to noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus. Use these tips to wear the following popular hearing protection devices the correct way.

Foam earplugs

Watch the ‘How to Properly Wear Foam Earplugs’ video on

  • Roll the earplug between your thumb and forefinger
  • Pull up and back on the pinna (outer section of ear) to straighten the ear canal
  • Insert the earplug completely into the ear canal
  • Ensure the earplug is firmly held in the canal, with the base concealed by the ear
  • Foam earplugs can be worn after the initial use. Discard and use a new pair if they get wet or dirty

Molded earplugs

  • Hold the ear by the pinna to straighten the ear canal
  • Hold the earplug by the stem and rotate into the ear canal until fully inserted
  • Verify that the earplug is secure
  • Twist to remove the earplug—do not pull straight out
  • Earplugs can be reused after washing with soap and water 

Earmuffs and headsets

  • Adjust headset size, if applicable
  • Place the muffs or headset gently over the ears
  • Verify that the cushions are sealed over the ear and against the head
  • Inspect the earmuffs daily to ensure cushion quality and identify damage

Choosing the right type of hearing protection equipment and wearing it correctly every day can prevent noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus at work or during recreational activities. Always check your equipment’s fit and replace old or worn-down devices to ensure the most reliable protection.

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