5 Best Ear Protector for Factory Work

If you work in industry, manufacturing or in a factory of any type, you need protection for your hearing. Many employers will provide some type of earmuff or earplug, but often these ear protectors may not fully protect depending on the level of environmental noise. 

Best Ear Protection for Factory WorkWe asked a group of industrial factory workers to test ear protectors for a week while at work. We discussed noise reduction, comfort and cost with them at the end of the week. We also consulted with medical professionals to get the low down on how important it is to protect hearing in the workplace.

At the end of our search, we chose 3M Pro-grade Noise Reduction Earmuff as our top choice for ear protection in an industrial factory setting because it offers good ear protection at an affordable price.

If your budget allows a higher price, the 3M Peltor X5A Safety Earmuffswill offer a bit higher NRR at a lighter weight.

Ear ProtectorStyleNRRWeightExtras
3M Pro-grade Noise Reduction EarmuffEarmuffs30 dB12.5 ouncesBright red for visibility, Affordable, Cushioning
3M Peltor X5A Safety EarmuffsEarmuffs31 dB8.8 ouncesVarious styles, Vented headband, Replaceable ear cushions
3M Peltor EEP-100 EarplugsBattery operated earplugs27 dBOne button control, 3 volume levels, Rechargeable
3M WorktunesEarmuffs24 dB20 ouncesBluetooth, AM/FM radio
Mack’s Pillow Ultra Soft Earplugs in FoamDisposable earplugs33 dB4 ounces for 100 plugsSoft foam construction

Our Top Choice

1. 3M Pro-grade Noise Reduction Earmuff

We have chosen these over-the-ear protectors as our top choice because many pros just aren’t comfortable with earplugs. Often the downside with earmuffs is the weight and perhaps perspiration when worn in hot climates.

This 3M protector addresses both those concerns. The headband is rubber over molded material with ventilation designed directly into the band whether on your head or neck. They are both adjustable and lightweight at 12.5 ounces.

A bright red shell adds to their visibility if you set them down. The NRR is a solid 30 dB.

Pros

        • Lightweight
        • NRR 30 dB
        • Pivoting cups
        • Cushioning

Cons

        • Some jaw pressure reported

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Alternative Choices

2. 3M Peltor X5A Safety Earmuffs

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

An acoustic seal that maximizes comfort along with a cut-out headband design for those hot days make these protectors appealing. Ear cups are in durable ABS. Ear cushions are replaceable. Weight is 8.8 ounces.

Pros

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

Cons

        • Tight fit reported
        • More expensive than other 3M choices
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3. 3M Peltor EEP-100 Earplugs

This earplug kit is quite attractive for industrial situations 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 in the factory.

However, they also permit you o 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 ear buds are rechargeable. Their storage case doubles as a recharging unit.

Pros

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

Cons

        • Some recharging difficulties reported
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4. 3M Worktunes

If you prefer ear protectors with Bluetooth connectivity, these 3M Worktunes Wireless earmuffs are the solution. The NRR is 24dB and these muffs are vented for warmer climates. 

The 3M Worktunes have Bluetooth technology that allows you to connect to any device with Bluetooth connectivity. They feature an AM/FM radio that saves up to 50 stations.

They also boast a safe volume control allowing you to listen without overdoing it and you won’t have to remove the muffs. The drawback may be the weight. This is a heavier set of earmuffs weighing in at 20 ounces. 

Pros

        • Two options for listening
        • Wireless connectivity
        • Easy-to-use controls
        • Safe volume management

Cons

        • Expensive
        • Heavy
        • NRR is not among the highest at 24dB
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5. Mack’s Pillow Ultra Soft Earplugs in Foam

These Mack’s Earplugs are an attractive option for fans of disposable earplugs. Made in a very soft foam, they adapt perfectly to your ear canal guaranteeing comfort. They 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. and are a great solution for hygienic concerns.

Pros

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

Cons

        • Some comments about a change in design
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Why Factory Workers need Hearing Protectors?

If you consider the NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) statistics about occupational hearing loss, approximately 22 million workers in the United States are exposed to hazardous noise annually.

Approximately 46% of all manufacturing workers have been exposed to hazardous noise and at least 24% of workers in manufacturing report in spite of being exposed, they do not use hearing protection. As a result, about 8% have difficulty hearing and 11% suffer from the condition tinnitus.

The NIOSH statistics also state that 20% of the manufacturing workers tested for noise exposure have a hearing impairment that impacts their ability to hear daily and 14% of those same workers have a problem in both ears.

Food manufacturing, like textile manufacturing and metal manufacturing all have above average hearing loss rates, much due to the introduction of automation in substitution of manual labor.

It is estimated that industry spends several hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for disabilities related to the loss of hearing. Your hearing is priceless, so why not invest in the best possible hearing protection from on-the-job noise? 

What Is Too Loud?

Lots of various noises are present in the workplace, especially in a factory. The operation of heavy machinery can arrive at a whopping 120 dB.

As human hearing will sustain damage from eight hours of noise at 85 dB, imagine what would happen when exposed to heavy machinery producing 120 dB. One hour of 120 dB can result in hearing loss. 

Types of Hearing Protection

Hearing protection is available in three basic options:

1.) Earmuffs. Have both advantages and disadvantages. They can protect hearing quite adequately from very loud machinery and automation, but they are heavier to wear. After prolonged use, they may contribute to headaches, or perspiration.

In a colder climate, they may provide an amount of insulation. They may make hearing conversation among colleagues or team members difficult, resulting in continuous removal.

2.) Earplugs. If you chose disposable earplugs, they are relatively inexpensive, very light in weight and adaptable to various ear canal shapes and sizes.

They also are a viable option in any temperature. They are a good choice for people with hygienic concerns. The NRR number will indicate if they are adequate for a factory environment.

3.) Noise Canceling Ear Protection. These are usually found in new earplugs that incorporate noise canceling technology in their design, although some earmuffs may have this technology as well. 

This technology basically blocks all unwanted damaging noise but allows you to hear conversation without removing the protectors. They are comfortable, and the earplug version is lighter. This option will be more expensive, and the ear protectors will need to be recharged.

FAQ

What is a dangerous noise level?

Noise at 85 decibels is considered dangerous for your hearing. Machinery, motors and factory noise can reach levels of well over 100 dB.

Are in-ear or over-ear protectors better?

An in-ear protector will probably protect you from noise better, butter over-the-ear protection is certainly preferable to no protection. In choosing, much will depend on your comfort level using one or the other.

How should I take care of my ear protectors?

If you have earmuffs, when they are not in use, they should be stored in a case to protect them from dust and damage. Should you see any cracking in the earmuffs, they should be replaced immediately. Most foam earplugs are disposable and should be tossed after one use. Hands, ears, and earmuffs should be kept clean.

Should I have my hearing tested?

If your workplace exposes you to a great deal of hazardous noise levels, you should have your hearing checked at least once a year. Should you notice ringing in your ears, contact your doctor immediately because you may be developing tinnitus.


The Bottom Line

If you work in a factory or industrial setting, you need protection for your hearing. Machinery and automation have high noise production, so good ear protectors will defend your hearing from the hazards of your work. We hope this article has helped you begin your search for the best ear protectors for factory work.

Thank you for reading and protect your hearing!