Hearing Protection Ear Muffs

Quick and easy to use, hearing protection ear muffs are standard gear in noisy environments.

ear muff hearing protectors
Image courtesy of US Department of Labor

"Ear muff" style hearing protectors have two cups that surround the outer ears, connected by a headband or neckband. The cup shells contain acoustic foam that absorbs sound waves and reduces the level of sound that reaches the ears. Hearing protectors are common safety equipment in noisy occupational environments, and are readily available and affordable for anyone to use in noisy activities and settings.

Their advantages include:
  • They are easy to use correctly.
  • They are quick to put on and take off.
  • They do not irritate the ear canal or exacerbate ear infections.

Disadvantages are:
  • They can be hot to wear.
  • If you have a beard, sideburns, or long hair, or if you wear glasses, the hearing protection may not be as effective. Wearing glasses reduces the noise reduction factor by 3-7 dB* or more.
  • If you need to wear a helmet or hardhat, safety glasses, and/or a face shield at the same time as the hearing protectors, you need to choose a model designed to be worn together with the additional gear.

When selecting a hearing protector, the main considerations are:
  • Fit: The ear cups should sit firm and flat against your head, with no gaps.
  • Comfort: They should feel firm but not too heavy or tight. The more comfortable they are, the more you will wear them, and the more protection they will provide.
  • Noise reduction rating (NRR): A typical ear muff hearing protector will have an NRR in the range of 25–30.

Other features you may be interested in are:

For even greater noise reduction, you can wear ear plugs together with over-the-ear hearing protectors. The combination of plugs and muffs will typically increase the NRR by 4 to 8 dB over the better of the two devices.

You can find safety ear muffs at sporting goods stores and hardware safety supply shops. You can also buy them online at Amazon.com or the Ear Plug Superstore, which carries an extensive selection of ear muff hearing protectors in addition to their ear plugs. Depending on the brand quality and the features you choose, a set of ear muffs will typically cost $10 to $50 (US dollars).

* Elliott H Berger, "Tips for Fitting Hearing Protectors," Sound and Vibration 22(10) (1988): 22.

Models to fit children, youth, and adults:

3M Peltor H10A Optime 105 Earmuff
Baby Banz Hearing Protection Earmuff
Pro Ears ReVO Passive Ear Muffs for smaller heads and ears

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