Best Ear Protection for Construction Worker

Construction sites are home to numerous loud noise that can cause permanent damage to the hearing of construction professionals. Much will depend on how loud the noise is and how long the noise persists, and finally how long employees are exposed.

Best Ear Protection for Construction WorkerWe decided to research the best ear defenders for construction site professionals. Several crews of veteran construction pros tested our selection of ear protectors for ten days directly on the job.

We consulted medical experts, read customer feedback and above all spoke directly with the pros testing the ear defenders.

In the end, we have selected the 3M Peltor X5A Safety Earmuffs as our top choice for construction site workers because of their high NRR of 31 dB offering lots of noise attenuation. They have a new design of ear cups and innovative foam cushioning.

Earplug/EarmuffsStyleNRRSafetyExtras
3M Peltor X5A Earmuffs31 dBEN397: 1995Newly designed spacers, tilting pivot points for comfort, twin headband for heat, Replaceable cushions
MPOW 035 Earmuffs28/34 dBANSI S3.19 certified, CE EN 352.1 certifiedLightweight, Double shell design in ABS, Carrying pouch
Mack’s Pillow Ultra Soft in FoamEarplug33 dBSold in boxes of 50 pairs
Howard Leight Disposable Earplug32 dBSold in boxes of 200 pairs

Whether it’s a power drill, a jackhammer, a crane, a hydraulic breaker, a compressed air blower, an air track drill or a diesel engine, if it’s loud and continuous, there is a problem.

Damage to the ears from loud persistent environmental noise can be irreversible, so it’s better to practice prevention than reap any unfortunate consequences.

Best Ear Protection for Construction Review

1. 3M Peltor X5A Safety Earmuffs (Top Choice)

These protective earmuffs are at the top of our list because of their high NRR of 31 dB offering lots of noise attenuation. They boast spacers with nicely designed ear cups and innovative foam cushioning.

There is a nice effective acoustic seal that maximizes comfort also thanks to a cut-out headband design for those hot days.

Ear cups are in durable ABS, and no wiring is exposed or visible. Ear cushions are replaceable.

Pros

      • NRR of 31 dB
      • Replaceable foam ear cushions
      • Comfortable
      • Headband design for hot days

Cons

      • Tight fit reported
      • Heavy for some buyers
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

2. MPOW 035 Earmuffs

A great alternative choice is the Mpow 035 protective earmuff defenders because they offer great comfort for a good price.

A ribbed headband helps to reduce heat buildup when you’re busy working in summer heat, direct sunlight or high-temperature environments.

Lightweight at 9.9 ounces they offer two layers of foam. Their compact style with foldable earcups makes for easy transport.

Pros

      • Double Shell design in ABS
      • NRR 28 dB/34 dB
      • Nice compact design
      • Carrying Pouch 
      • Affordable
      • 3 color options

Cons

      • May not be ideal for larger heads
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3. Mack’s Pillow Ultra Soft Earplugs in Foam

If you prefer an earplug protector as opposed to ear muffs these Mack’s Earplugs are an attractive option. Made in a very soft foam, they adapt perfectly to your ear canal guaranteeing comfort.

These are disposable earplugs that come in boxes of 100 or 50 pairs meaning that a box will last pretty long. The NRR is 33dB which is high for earplugs.

An advantage to choosing earplugs is that they can be worn under helmets, hats, masks, etc.

Pros

      • Convenient
      • Ultra-soft
      • NRR 33dB
      • Can be worn with helmets, etc.

Cons

      • Some complaints about the change in design
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

4. Howard Leight Disposable Earplugs

Another great earplug option is by Howard Leight and they are disposable and sold in bulk. For earplugs, they offer an incredible NRR of 32 dB giving fantastic protection.

Soft and malleable, they form to fit any ear. It may not be easy to hear the conversation around you. If you have hygienic concerns of any type, these are great because you can just toss them at the end of the day.

Pros

      • NRR of 32 dB
      • Comfortable, soft, and malleable
      • Hygienic
      • Disposable
      • Can be purchased in bulk

Cons

      • Difficult to hear others conversing when wearing 
Check Price and Reviews on Amazon

How to Measure the Noise Level at Constriction Site?

We recommend that employers use a noise dosimeter to evaluate the environmental noise that workers sustain during a work shift. They are small devices that workers can wear right on the job during their work shift.

A dosimeter can be attached to a belt with the microphone attached to a lapel or collar. It should not be covered by any material and ideally should be run underneath a worker’s shirt so as not to be caught in any machinery or tools while on the job. If your construction site is windy, use a wind screen on your dosimeter. 

OSHA Noise Level Recommendations at WorkPlace

Noise is measured in decibels often marked as dB. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) considers noise levels that exceed 85 dB in the work environment harmful and potentially damaging to hearing.

In fact, OSHA recommends that hearing protection be used if the noise levels, regardless of what produces it, exceed 85 dB. The bottom line is if workers sustain constant exposure to noise levels above 85 dB, their hearing will probably be damaged beyond repair.

A noise dosimeter can be set to 85 dB as the criteria for establishing potential noise hazards in the workplace. Make sure that any dosimeter used has new fresh batteries so it can register noise during the entire test period.

As human hearing will sustain damage from eight hours of noise at 85 dB, imagine what would happen when exposed to a jackhammer’s 102 dB. One hour of 102 dB will contribute to hearing loss. Consider this table of common noises and 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

Earplugs or Earmuffs: Which is Better for Construction Worker?

Two basic types of hearing protection are used by laborers and professionals at construction sites: earplugs and earmuffs. Both types are available with a noise reduction factor that ranges from 15 to 30 dB with correct use.

Earplugs are available in several styles:

      • Disposable foam plugs
      • Disposable canal caps
      • Custom molded plugs
      • Reusable plugs
      • Noise canceling earplugs

The most comfortable will most likely be the custom-molded earplugs, however, the other types are equally efficient when inserted and worn correctly.

Earplugs made of foam are also comfortable and initially less expensive, but since they are disposable, you will have to continue buying them. Long term, the reusable earplugs may prove to be a better economical choice.

A canal cap is not inserted into the ear canal so it will afford less protection making it a better choice for management that work from a soundproof trailer.

Finally, new to the market are noise canceling earplugs that block damaging noise through technology but still allow you to hear conversation. They are more expensive.

Earmuffs will instead cover the entire ear and usually are equipped with a rubber trim to create a type of seal when worn. The one potential drawback of choosing earmuffs is that the seal may not be effective if you need to wear goggles, or masks together with the muffs.

They also require maintenance such as regular cleaning and more space when stored or transported. They will probably be warmer for those pros that work in cooler climates but may provoke excessive sweating in hot climates. They are easily worn and removed and may be the ideal choice if your only wear them occasionally instead of the duration of an entire work shift.

Also, you will want to consider if you will be wearing a hard hat. Some hard hats will accommodate earmuffs. If you want the maximum protection available, you can wear a pair of earplugs under earmuffs. This will provide you with even more noise reduction on the job.

Top 10 Best Ear Protection Earmuffs/Earplugs for Construction Workers

Things to Consider while Buying Hearing Protection for Construction

1.) Noise Attenuation. Attenuation is the term used to refer to the process of diminishing noise energy. The amount of noise attenuation ear defenders offer will be your priority. The “NRR” provided by the manufacturer signifies “Noise Reduction Rating”.

This number shows the amount of noise attenuation available with a specific ear protector. To calculate how much acoustic pressure your ears sustain while at work, subtract the NRR from the average daily or weekly noise level measured at the workplace.

If the average noise measures about 110 dB and your ear protectors have an NRR of 30, the average acoustic pressure you experience with the protectors will be 110 – 30 = 80 decibels. The higher the NRR, the better the noise attenuation your will receive with your ear protectors on. 

The letters “HML” represent the method for approximating how much attenuation ear protectors offer with regard to the three parameters of High, Medium, and Low. These parameters refer specifically to the amount of noise reduction at these differing frequencies.

NRR or the Noise Reduction Rating, is the most important piece of information for your selection. The NRR indicates the amount of protection provided. The higher the number, the more the environmental noise will be reduced when the ear protectors are worn.

2.) Environmental Noise. The amount of environmental noise that you sustain while working is the reason you need ear protectors. Ideal hearing protection should be selected specifically for the environmental noise at a construction site. In this case, top-notch ear protection with a high NRR is recommended due to the use of power tools and heavy machinery.

3.) Safety Certification. PPE needs to meet international and national standards required by law. The identification stamps and markings that appear on PPE including CE, EN ISO, and BS will show if the equipment meets safety standards.

There are varying standards for differing types of noise. EN60745 markings refer specifically to portable power tools noise while BS EN ISO 4871-2009 refers to machinery noise.

The USA Noise Reduction Rating – NRR, the British Standards Institution – BSI, and the European Union – CE show measurements that indicate how effective any one pair of ear protectors are.

Personal Preferences for Ear Protectors

Things to keep in mind when selecting include:

1.) Allergies and sensitivities. If you have a particular skin sensitivity, check out what materials are used in the manufacturing and which will come into direct contact with your skin.

2.) Fit and Comfort. It is better to try ear protectors before deciding on your final choice. You need to verify that the fit is correct, ensuring your comfort. If you wear ear protection for long extended periods, protectors should be comfortable. You won’t wear them if they hurt.  

3.) Durability You want ear protectors that last. Look for quality materials like foam, silicone, or ABS used in the construction. Reading customer feedback can give you an idea about the potential durability of a product with proper maintenance care. Some manufacturers may offer a warranty.

4.) Cost. Quality is especially important when protecting your health. The best available protection may mean spending more. Do not buy a pair of ear protectors only because they are cheap. Your hearing is priceless, and it should last for your entire lifetime.

5.) Brand/Manufacturer. A well-known brand can inspire confidence when purchasing. If you have a favorite PPE brand beware of marketing ploys. Consult colleagues, read reviews and read customer feedback before making your final choice.

A Final Thought

If you visit the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) for statistics about occupational hearing loss, construction statistics show that approximately 51% of all workers in construction have been exposed to noise hazards.

An astounding 31% claim to never having worn hearing protection. !4% have difficulty hearing, 7 % have tinnitus and about 25% have some type of hearing impairment of which 16% in both ears.

If you are a professional in the construction industry and you don’t have hearing protection, go immediately and get some.