8 Best Ear Protection for High-Frequency Noise

Best Ear Protection for High-Frequency NoiseMost noise from industrial or construction worksites can be measured within the range of human hearing and specifically between 20 and 20,000 Hertz.

Some machinery, however, may produce sounds in the extreme upper limits such as a high-frequency piercing sound from an ultrasonic welder. This noise may show a measurement anywhere between 15,000 and 20,000 Hz.

So, what’s the problem? Most ear protectors are tested to about 8,000 Hz. Can these defenders protect you from high-frequency noise? Our ears do have some natural built-in protection because we have less sensibility for high-frequency sounds.

We experimented with different types of ear protection in various loud settings that featured high-pitched sounds, and our top pick was Honeywell Howard Leight Laser Lite Disposable Earplugs because they are self-adjusting earplugs made in foam that are disposable with an impressive NRR of 32 dB.

EarplugStyleNRRExtras
Honeywell Howard Leight Laser Lite Disposable EarplugsDisposable earplugs32 dBSoft foam that expands in ear canal for fit
3M Reusable Corded Earplugs 90716-80025TReusable earplugsBlocks sounds over 85 dBWashable
Honeywell Hearing Band QB2HYGRReusable earplugs25 dB2 bands, 4 sets of plugs
Plugfones Noise Reducing Earplug Earbud HybridReusable earplugs26 dBAudio jack for listening
3M Foam Disposable Earplugs #1100Disposable earplugs29 dBHypoallergenic foam
Decibullz Custom Molded Thermoplastic EarplugsReusable earplugs31 dBCustom molding, Thermo plastic
3M Peltor EEP-100 EarplugsRechargeable earplugs27 dBStorage case is recharging unit
Mack’s Pillow Ultra Soft Earplugs in FoamDiposable earplugs33 dBSold in boxes of 100

An example might be that 100 dB at a 100Hz frequency will sound softer than the same 100 dB at a frequency of 1000 Hz. Human sensitivity to high-frequency noise is very low. 

Standard earplugs attenuate high-frequency sounds much better than low-frequency noise. Proof of this lies in the fact that things sound a bit muffled with earplugs in your ears. Moreover, both earplugs and earmuffs can offer protection that is more than the range they are tested for. 

Earplugs probably offer the best protection however earmuffs and headbands also work fine since this type of noise isn’t particularly loud. All of these ear defenders will protect against high-frequency noise.

OUR TOP CHOICE

1. Honeywell Howard Leight Laser Lite Disposable Earplugs

These are self-adjusting earplugs made in foam that are disposable. It creates a secure seal within the ear canal thanks to the foam that expands to fit your ear canal. The NRR is impressive at 32 dB. Soft foam is comfortable for extended work periods.

Pros

        • Good fit regardless of ear size
        • Self-adjusting soft foam
        • Hygienic
        • Comfortable

Cons

        • Some movement in the ear canal reported
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Other Competitive Choices

2. 3M Reusable Corded Earplugs 90716-80025T

This is a dependable earplug that is reusable. Noises are kept to a minimum thanks to its blocking sounds above 85 dB.

A flexible design affords a secure fit inside the ear canal and the softness in construction guarantees comfort during long work shifts. They are washable and can be reused, lessening the cost to your wallet. 

Pros

        • Blocks noises over 85 dB
        • Soft and comfortable
        • Economic because reusable

Cons

        • Sometimes difficult to clean
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3. Honeywell Hearing Band QB2HYGR

This is a great choice in safety ear protection. The NRR is 25 dB which is sufficient for many work environments. It boasts an ergonomic design with a band that is wide-shaped making it functional, stylish, and above all comfortable.

Lightweight and designed for all sizes, it has a suspended design to avoid setting it on contaminated surfaces.

Pros

        • Bright orange color highly visible
        • Comfortable and lightweight
        • Ergonomic

Cons

        • Plastic band edges are slightly rough to the touch
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4. Plugfones Noise Reducing Earplug Earbud Hybrid

These ear protectors function as both an earplug or an earbud. Fitted with a soft tip, these foam plugfones are exceptionally comfortable. Its yellow color makes it highly visible in any work environment and it features an NRR of 26 dB.

They also have a reinforced audio jack to allow you to block unwanted noise and enjoy your favorite music all day. ANSI S3.19 certified they come with a 30-day no-hassle warranty.

Pros

        • Reduces noise level
        • Allow audio listening
        • Comfortable
        • Soft tips
        • Yellow 

Cons

        • Could be more durable
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5. 3M Foam Disposable Earplugs

 3M is renowned for its workplace equipment with good reason. These disposable earplugs provide great hearing protection coupled with equally great comfort.

The NRR is an impressive 29 dB. Made from a soft foam that is also hypoallergenic, these a credible choice for pros with allergies or sensitivities. The tapered design enables a secure fit. These earplugs are sold in packages of 200 pairs making them economically sensible.

Pros

        • NRR 29 dB
        • Soft hypoallergenic foam construction
        • Secure fit
        • Dirt resisting
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6. Decibullz Custom Molded Thermoplastic Earplugs

With an exceptional NRR of 31 dB, these earplugs are known to be safe and comfortable.  As a custom-molded earplug, once you place it in your ear canal it will take the shape and size of your ear.

As such it will lower any risk of slippage or falling out. This custom-fit explains its noise reduction capacity. You can remold it until you find the perfect fit. 

Pros

        • Superior noise reduction
        • Anti-slippage
        • Custom mold for a custom fit
        • NRR 31 dB

Cons

        • Instructions for molding could be simpler
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7. 3M Peltor EEP-100 Earplugs

For those who prefer an earplug, this earplug kit is quite attractive for worksites that require a hard hat because it features triple C ear tips for the plugs that offer an NRR of 27dB which means your ears will be protected up to 97dB on the job.

However, they also permit you to hear normal conversations, meaning that you will know what’s happening around you. The plugs have a button for switching them on or off and the earbuds are rechargeable. The storage case doubles as a recharging unit.

Pros

        • Easy to use
        • Recharging storage case
        • NRR 27 dB
        • Water and dust resistant

Cons

        • Expensive
        • Some recharging difficulties reported
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8. Mack’s Pillow Ultra Soft Earplugs in Foam

These Mack’s Earplugs are an attractive option for pros who prefer disposable earplugs. Made in very soft foam, they adapt perfectly to your ear canal guaranteeing comfort.  They come in boxes of 100 or 50 pairs. The NRR is 33dB which is high for earplugs.

An advantage to choosing earplugs is that they can be worn under hard hats and with goggles and masks without difficulty and are a great solution for hygienic concerns.

Pros

        • Convenient
        • Ultra-soft
        • NRR 33dB
        • Can be worn with other PPE

Cons

        • Some comments about a change in design
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When Are High-Frequency Noises Damaging? 

Environmental noise at work is well documented and recognized as one of the major hazards to your health in the workplace. Professionals that will sustain exposure to loud noise without protection can end up with either temporary or permanent hearing loss. The amount of protection required must match the amount of hazardous noise sustained.

Noise level is measured in decibels or dB. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) considers any level of noise that exceeds 85 dB as dangerous and most likely damaging to a worker’s hearing.

OSHA recommends that hearing protection be used if the noise levels exceed 85 dB. Continuous exposure to noise above 85 dB will subject a worker’s hearing to damage beyond repair.

Employers can use a noise dosimeter to measure the environmental noise that workers sustain while at work. These small devices are worn attached to a belt with a small microphone attached to a lapel or collar. The noise dosimeter can measure potential noise hazards and risk exposure. 

Companies can also organize audiometric exams for workers as part of a surveillance safety program. This testing should be done annually to measure if an employee’s hearing has deteriorated the year as well as if the PPE used in the workplace is doing an efficient job.

Environmental Noise. Employees need ear protectors for environmental noise. The best hearing protection should be selected specifically for the environmental noise in the specific workplace, especially when dealing with automation, power tools, and heavy machinery, or similar.

Noise Attenuation diminishes noise energy. The amount of noise attenuation of any ear protection will be the number one priority when selecting ear defenders.  “NRR” stamped on the earmuffs or earplugs signifies “Noise Reduction Rating” and will show the amount of noise attenuation available with that ear protector. 

The NRR is the most important piece of information one needs when selecting. The higher the number, the more the environmental noise, including high-frequency sound, will be reduced when the ear protectors are worn correctly.

To calculate how much acoustic pressure your ears are subjected to, subtract the NRR from the average daily or weekly noise level measured at your workplace.

Noise measuring about 100 dB and ear protectors with an NRR of 30, means the average acoustic pressure you experience with the protectors will be 110 – 30 = 70 decibels. The higher the NRR, the better the noise attenuation.  

See also: Best hearing protector for lawn mower

Consider this table of noises and risk exposure:

Decibel measurement How long it is safe to listen without any ear protection Type or source of the Noise
130 0 Jet lift off
120 0 Amplified musical event
115 Under one minute Sporting event
109 Under two minutes Use of auto horn
106 Under four minutes Personal music source set at the maximum volume
100 Fifteen minutes Industrial machinery
97 Half hour Motorcycle noise
94 One hour Electric drill
91 Two hours Lawnmower noise
85 Eight hours Vacuum cleaner noise
55 Always safe Normal conversation without shouting

For earplugs or earmuffs to attenuate high-frequency noise, they must be worn correctly.

Safety Certification.

If you are using ear protection against high-frequency noise to meet safety requirements in the workplace you should consider safety certification when buying. Identification stamps and markings that appear on PPE such as CE, EN ISO, and BS will show if your equipment meets necessary safety standards for the type of work you do.

There are differing standards for various types of noise. EN60745 markings refer specifically to the noise made by portable power tools while BS EN ISO 4871-2009 refers to noise from machinery. The USA Noise Reduction Rating – NRR, the British Standards Institution – BSI, and the European Union – CE show measurements that state the protection offered.

Personal Considerations for Selecting Appropriate Ear Protection

Consider the following when searching:

1.) Allergies and sensitivities. Always check construction materials used in the manufacturing of ear protection and specifically those that come into direct contact with your skin particularly if you have either allergies or sensitivities.

2.) Fit and Comfort. The fit must be correct to guarantee full protection and ensure your comfort. If you wear ear protection for an extended period, protectors should be comfortable.  If ear defenders are not worn correctly, they will not give the full certified amount of protection.

3.) Durability Look for quality construction materials like foam, silicone, or ABS. Read customer feedback regarding durability with proper maintenance care. Some products come with a warranty. Consult your colleagues, and safety personnel as well.

4.) Cost. Quality is important. Do not hesitate to invest a bit more if it is in your best interests long-term. Never buy ear protectors because they are cheap. Your hearing is priceless and needs to be protected at all costs.

See also: Best hearing protection for chainsaw

Why You Need Ear Protection for High-Frequency Noise

One of the severest and often underrated health hazards present in the workplace is noise. Power tools with high-pitched sound can be a constant threat to your hearing. Unlike eyes, ears do not open and close, so there is no natural way to block a sound.

They are not subject to debris or dust flying inside or to liquid splashes, so it is easy to forget that your ears also deserve adequate protection.

Excessive dangerous noise levels can lead to permanent hearing impairment or loss. One way to protect your precious hearing is by using ear protection. 

Earplugs, which are exceptional in blocking high-frequency noises, literally plug the entrance to your ear canal, reducing the amount of sound that can penetrate your inner ear. Common materials used are foam, silicone, and thermoplastic.

We highly recommend you safeguard your health, including that of your hearing, while enjoying your profession daily.