Different types of Hearing Protection Devices
And why "hearing protection" has gotten a bad name
Hearing protection comes in all shapes and sizes. The market is flooded with earplugs with cords, without cords, foam, flange tips, earmuffs, custom earplugs, shouting buzzwords like passive and active hearing protection, noise-cancelling high-fidelity and acoustic filtering.
But all this stems from a misunderstanding. Technology has evolved, but we are still being sold $0.60 foam earplugs that are "good for every purpose".
That is not true. See, it's just as dangerous for someone to overprotect as it is to underprotect your ears. When your job is to stand on the roof of a 5 storey building with a power tool, you're not going to want to wear class 5 earmuffs! After all, your hearing is not only responsible for alerting you to warning signals, it's also responsible for your balance and situational awareness. It's no wonder, then, that someone would rather damage their hearing over time than wear earplugs that block out everything and leave them feeling isolated and vulnerable.
It also doesn't make sense to treat yourself to a rock concert or beautiful symphony orchestra with foam earplugs stuffed in your ears. They simply muffle the sound too much, and take away the clarity of the music that you've paid good money to enjoy.
What you really want are high-fidelity acoustic earplugs. Make sure that these are pill filtered, not tube filtered, and that you have a great fit. The type of filter and fit vastly affects the sound clarity and performance. You also want to make sure that your earplugs come from a reputable source. We have noticed a lot of knock-off filters on the market, which don't provide sound clarity and worse, might not actually protect you from the right levels of sound!
PS: Every single White Cat earplug filter is acoustically tested, so you know that you're getting quality sound at its best.
What about custom earplugs?
Good custom earplugs are made by taking impressions from your ear. These impressions are used to either make a negative mould to create the finished product, or 3D scanned, modeled and printed in a silicone-like polymer, or acrylic. Done well, they provide a snug and secure fit that's just for your ears. If you have an ear canal that's extremely small and/or oval-shaped, you might have to spend the $400 to get yourself a pair of custom acoustic filtered earplugs. Custom earplugs also more tricky to insert. Once in though, they mostly don't fall out.
Thankfully, most of us have ears canals that are a nice round-ish shape, or flexible enough to use off-the-shelf earplugs.. provided the earplugs come with a wide range of eartips! This is why White Cat Earplug sets come with 4 eartip sizes, so you can get a nice, snug, comfortable fit possible.
Unsure if you need custom earplugs? Get a friend to snap a clear photo of your ear canal and send it to us. If you're in Wellington, you're in luck. Book a fitting appointment with the Wellington Hearing Association and walk away with a great fit.
Wearing an incorrectly fitted or partially fitted earplug is dangerous. It gives you a false sense of protecting your ears from noise, but actually only attenuates sound by 5 - 10dB!
Foam earplugs and Class 5 earmuffs are great. When they are used for the right situations. If you're working on the tarmac of an airport runway, you definitely want to have Class 5 earmuffs on to keep you safe from the roar of those metallic flying beasts. But what happens when you need to communicate with your coworker? That's when double protection comes in. Wearing acoustic filtered earplugs beneath those Class 5 earplugs not only adds an extra layer of protection from the noise, but also keeps you semi-protected during the short communication intervals. Acoustic filtered earplugs doubled with noise-cancelling communication headsets are even better, if you can afford it.
This leads us to the difference between passive and active hearing protection. Active hearing protection means that the hearing protection device incorporates microelectronics, therefore requiring a power source of some form to run. This means you need to charge them or replace the batteries after some time. Good active hearing protection works amazingly well, but easily costs 2 to 10 times more than passive hearing protection. White Cat Earplugs are currently all passive hearing protection devices, because it means less maintenance and is more affordable.
Want to know what attenuation levels you need? Check out this chart for an easy reference.
We also have a page dedicated to Impact earplugs, or earplugs that can protect you from impulse noises like shooting, fireworks, a construction jackhammer or the clash of a pan hitting the floor.
More about earplugs
What "high-fidelity" and "acoustic filters" mean, and why "Musician Earplugs" are a lie.
Differentiate between unfiltered, tube filters and pill filters so you can get crystal clear sound while protecting your ears.
Gunshots, hammering, clanging pots and the hiss of the espresso machine. Non-linear earplugs can handle that.
Fit and seal matters.. and can bring a 25 dB rated earplug to protect you by just 5 dB! Find out how to get the right fit.