Different Types of Ear Protection

To protect your ears from loud noises and the potential for temporary or permanent hearing damage, you want to always wear ear protection when exposed to high decibel levels. Whether it’s due to your profession, lifestyle, or you’re just going out to see your favorite band perform, wearing ear protection is critical to ensure the long-term health of your ears and hearing. Ear protection is easy to use, and in some cases, hearing damage may be irreversible.

This is why it’s so important to understand the benefits and the three primary types of ear protection. Knowing how ear protection works can help you better ensure the longevity of your hearing health—no matter the situation. With ear protection, you don’t have to let the fears of hearing damage control your life. Here, we take a closer look at common hearing conditions, when you need ear protection, and the different types of ear protection.


There are various hearing issues that may impact the overall quality of your hearing. While some of these develop naturally from old age, others may be caused by different factors, such as repeated exposure to loud noises, ear wax blockage, or medical conditions like Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma. Here are some of the most common hearing conditions:

1. Tinnitus.

If you constantly hear a slight buzzing, ringing, or clicking in your ears, you may be experiencing tinnitus. This hearing condition affects millions of people all over the world and may be caused by a variety of sources. Tinnitus may be temporary, such as when you hear a slight ringing in your ears after a concert, or it can become permanent.

2. Hyperacusis.

Noise sensitivity, or hyperacusis, refers to a hearing condition that causes everyday noises to sound much louder than they should. If you live with hyperacusis, normal sounds, such as an air conditioner, a car engine, a washing machine, or even a conversation, can cause agitation and irritation. Sometimes, these noises can even become painful. While the most common cause of hyperacusis is from repeated exposure to loud noises, various other underlying conditions may lead to this hearing issue, such as Lyme disease, Meniere’s disease, or a head injury.

3. Hearing loss.

Hearing loss is a broad term that refers to any type of degradation of the quality and health of your hearing. This often occurs naturally as we age. In fact, according to the National Institute on Aging, roughly a third of individuals between the ages of 65 and 74 experience some type of hearing loss. While aging is one natural factor, hearing loss can also be caused by loud noises, middle ear fluid, a head injury, or serious infections, such as meningitis.


When exposing yourself to loud noises, which we all do at some point, it can be difficult to determine what exactly is too loud. When does a loud noise begin to damage my hearing, and thus, when does ear protection become a necessary precaution?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), extended exposure to sounds over 70 decibels can lead to hearing damage. This includes noises like city traffic (80 to 85 decibels), a motorcycle (95 decibels), live sporting events (100 decibels), or direct shouting in the ear (110 decibels).
Sounds breaking the 120-decibel barrier can cause immediate hearing damage and pain to your ears. These types of noises include being close to sirens (120 decibels), firecrackers (140 decibels) or a gun firing (140 decibels). While many of these noises are easy to avoid, some may not be based on an individual’s lifestyle or profession. This means that ear protection is even more important.


To help ward off these hearing issues and any other sources of hearing damage, ear protection can play a critically important role. Generally, there are three different types of ear protection: ear plugs, semi-insert ear plugs, and earmuffs. Here’s a closer look at the three primary types of ear protection.


The most common type of ear protection, ear plugs can be found in a variety of stores for very affordable prices. Ear plugs are easy to pop in your ears and most are disposable after a few uses. This type of hearing protection is ideal for a variety of activities, including concerts, live sporting events, or recreational activities, such as firing ranges.


Also known as canal caps, this type of ear protection is similar to a set of ear plugs. The primary difference is that these ear plugs are connected by a headband. This feature makes it much easier to frequently insert and remove the ear protection and they can be used multiple times. Compared to ear plugs, however, these models can be more difficult to size properly and typically have lower noise reduction ratings.


While a bit bulkier than the other two options, earmuffs are rather effective at protecting your ears from external noises. Designed with sound-muffling materials, harder outer shells, and an attaching headband, earmuffs are especially effective at tuning out high frequency sounds, including air-powered tools, snow blowers, and leaf blowers. For maximum protection, you want to ensure you’re wearing the earmuffs properly so they completely seal over your ears. Wearing them over glasses or a hat may impair the seal.


Anyone would agree that your hearing health is important and should be protected. But at the same time, you shouldn’t allow the fear of loud noises to control your life and prevent you from enjoying the activities and places you love. So, how does one find a happy medium between the two?

Using ear protection is the most effective (and often most affordable) method for protecting your hearing health when exposed to loud noises. Whether using ear plugs, semi-insert ear plugs, or larger earmuffs, these devices can provide critically important protection to your ears. While hearing issues may stem from a variety of issues, exposure to loud noises is one that you can prevent and guard against. Use ear protection whenever you can and don’t gamble with your hearing health.