Levitt-Safety Blog

Earplugs for dummies: An introduction to hearing protection

Leslie MolinMarket Segment Manager - Personal SafetyApril 27, 2021

When choosing the right earplug for a job, you need to first identify the noise in your workplace. What causes it, how loud is it and how long are people exposed to it?

Once you've determined these factors, you can start shopping for the best option.

Look at the noise reduction rating (NRR) it offers. The NRR estimates the potential a hearing protection device has for blocking out sound.

As a best practice, CSA Standard Z94.2 recommends de-rating the NRR to get a real-world estimate of the actual noise reduction a person receives. CSA recommends 50 percent of the stated NRR minus 3 decibels as a safety factor.

8-hour average noise level – NRR of earplug x 0.5 (to get 50% effectiveness) – 3 dB (safety factor) = The noise level the worker will experience in decibels

For example: A person experiences 100 dB at work and is wearing plugs with a 33 dB NRR. You would use the following calculation to determine if it provides enough protection.

100 – [(33 x 0.5) – 3] = 86.5 dB

what to consider with ear plugs infograph

How do you correctly insert ear plugs?

Disposable roll-down foam

  1. Roll the entire plug into a narrow cylinder.
  2. Reach over your head with your free hand and pull your ear up and back.
  3. Insert so foam tip is well inside the canal.
  4. Hold for 30 to 40 seconds until it has fully expanded.

Reusable push-in foam

  1. Hold the stem in one hand.
  2. Reach over your head with your free hand and pull your ear up and back.
  3. Insert so foam tip is well inside the canal.
  4. Use a gentle rocking motion while pushing it to ensure a deep fit.

Reusable pre-molded push-in

  1. Hold the stem in one hand.
  2. Reach over your head with your free hand and pull your ear up and back.
  3. Insert so all flanges are well inside your canal.

how to insert earplugs

What should it look like when worn properly?

When worn properly, you shouldn’t be able to see the end of the plug when looking at yourself in the mirror.

How should it feel?

Initially, it might feel a bit ticklish and strange having something in your ear – don’t worry!

There’s no way for you to insert an ear plug too deeply for it to damage your eardrum.

If inserted properly, you should feel nothing at all once you get used to the sensation which only takes a minute or two.

women clapping hands over ears

How do I test if the ear plug is sitting properly?

Cup your hands over your ears and release in a noisy environment

The plug should block enough noise so that covering your ears with your hands does not result in a significant noise difference.

How do you remove your ear plugs?

Gently twist while slowly pulling it in an outward motion for removal. Twisting helps reduce its size, allowing for easy removal.

removing ear plug

What should it look like when you take it out?

If worn properly, your earplug should have an hourglass shape to it without any creases or folds once removed.

This shows that it was properly inserted and moulded to the S-shape of your ear canal.

When is it time to replace earplugs?

A disposable option is good for one-time use. A reusable option can be used for up to a week

Be sure to check for damage such as cracks or tears before each use.

What’s the risk of not properly wearing your earplugs?

Hearing loss is gradual. Many people don’t realize the damage until it’s too late.

It’s not until a hearing test or someone notices a ringing in their ears that a problem is detected.

The scary thing is you cannot rehabilitate your hearing. Once hearing damage occurs, that’s it.

This is why wearing proper hearing protection while on the job is vital.

Be sure to pay attention to these warning signs of hearing damage:

  • pain and discomfort
  • temporary hearing loss
  • inability to pick up on different pitches, or
  • ringing in your ears (tinnitus)

In addition to your job, it’s a good idea to wear hearing protection when performing off-duty tasks such as mowing the lawn or are around loud noises for an extended period of time.

Ready to pick the perfect pair of earplugs?

Visit our online shop to get started. We offer fast shipping and carry hearing protection from leading manufacturers like 3M and Honeywell.

Have a question? Get in touch! Our team of PPE experts is here to answer questions, make product recommendations and provide user training.