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Which Provide Better Hearing Protection, Plugs or Muffs?

a pair of orange foam ear plugs

Earplugs and earmuffs are two common types of protection for your ears. But which is better? It's important to know the differences between the two so you can ascertain the best ways to use both devices, depending on the situation. 

If you have concerns about your hearing, making the right choice will make all the difference between protecting your ears or putting yourself at risk of hearing loss. Let's go through both devices and weigh up the pros and cons of each.

Earmuffs

Earmuffs are very common in certain scenarios. Earmuffs comprise of a headband with an ear cup on each end. The ear cup is worn around the outside of the ear and the clamping provided by the device makes a seal around the ears. There are different types of earmuffs. The traditional earmuffs protect you from extreme noises and loud sounds. 

The protection comes from the foam in the ear cups and the covering is usually made from plastic or metal. There are other versions such as click onto helmet earmuffs, active electronic earmuffs that have microphones or other electronic components and active noise reduction earmuffs use noise cancellation technology to reduce low-frequency noises.

Advantages of earmuffs:

  • A one-size-fits-all design is beneficial to all ears.
  • It is easier to put on than earplugs, making for less fiddling that come with many earplugs.
  • The size means they are easily monitored and hard to misplace.
  • They are quick to put on or remove.

Disadvantages of earmuffs:

  • The size and weight make them less portable than earplugs.
  • If using earmuffs in combination with other equipment, such as a helmet, it may interfere with the equipment and vice versa.
  • They are not suitable for use in hot, humid, or confined environments as they can be uncomfortable.

As you can see, earmuffs are a very useful piece of equipment in certain environments. They can be more expensive due to the size and material involved but can offer a lot of protection in the right environment. Hard to dislodge, this is the reason they are so popular on construction sites. 

Earplugs

Earplugs are small hearing protection devices that are inserted into the ear canal. Earplugs are very common and are either manufactured for reusability or are disposable so can be used only once. There is a wide variety of earplugs; common foam earplugs which are meant to be disposed of after one use for the benefit of good hygiene and are very cheap. 

Custom-molded earplugs are made of silicone and rubber that offer reusability and fit an individual's ear better. There are also electronic earplugs, non-linear acoustic filtered earplugs, as well as musician’s earplugs.

Advantages of earplugs:

  • They are portable and easy to carry around, useful for any situation with excess noise.
  • As they don’t interfere with equipment like goggles or glasses, they are suitable for most people. 
  • They can be worn comfortably in any environment, especially hot and humid ones.
  • Easy to use if working in tight or cramped spaces.

Disadvantages of earplugs:

  • Can take more time to put on properly. 
  • Depending on the earplug, they can be difficult to put on and remove.
  • You need to keep your hands clean to avoid any chance of ear infection.
  • They may cause discomfort in the ear canal, especially if they are pushed in too far.
  • As they are so small, they can be easy to lose.

Earplugs are certainly useful for people that are on the move, but the wrong environment may render them completely unusable. They are cheaper than earmuffs, but they can easily be lost if the individual wearing them moves too much. They lend themselves well to situations where noise needs blocking out, but the individual is in one place, such as in an office or at home.

Which is better?

As you can see, the answer isn't so straightforward. It all depends on what environment you plan on using them. The important thing to remember is that each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. But now you know what each type of protection offers you can make a more informed decision. 

Protecting our hearing is of the utmost importance as we get older and this can mean investing in earplugs or earmuffs. But it's also important to undergo regular check-ups with a hearing instrument specialist (HIS) so you know what the best choice is for your circumstances. 

At the Niagara Hearing and Speech Clinic, we provide a wide variety of information for everyone seeking the best protection for their ears. You can learn more about the Niagara Hearing and Speech Clinic by calling us today at 905-938-1661 and we will work to help you understand the best protection for your ears.