As we all know, construction sites are noisy and loud. They use multiple machines and heavy equipment and perform intense activities that generate loud sounds. As a result, employees working there are constantly exposed to noise, which makes them more susceptible to hearing damage. To protect hearing health from getting damaged, it becomes essential for employees to use a hearing protection device. 

Did you know that approximately 14% of all construction workers have hearing difficulties, and 7% of all have tinnitus? 

Hearing loss caused by loud sounds is generally referred to as noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). This is common among people working in noisy settings. Many construction organizations encourage employees to wear hearing protectors while working to reduce the increasing risk of hearing damage. 

If you work at a construction site or any loud environment, you must use a hearing protector. It is a wearable device (ear plugs or earmuffs) that reduces the intensity of surrounding noise and helps you prevent exposure to loud sounds. 

In this article, I will walk you through some of the best ear plugs for construction with their features. But before that, let me help you with the factors you must consider while choosing construction ear plugs. 

Do You Need Ear Plugs for Construction?

One of the most common causes of hearing loss is prolonged exposure to loud noises. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), occupational hearing loss is among the most common and permanent work-related issues. Additionally, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) states that repeated and prolonged exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.

Below, I have mentioned a few sounds at or above 85 decibels and the amount of time when exposed to them can cause hearing loss: 

SoundDecibelsDamage to hearing
Lawnmowers and leaf blowers85 dB2 hours of exposure
Motorcycle95 dB50 minutes of exposure
Sporting events or approaching a subway train at 16 feet100 dB15 minutes of exposure
Concerts, loud entertainment environments, and the maximum level of personal listening devices105 to 110 dB5 minutes of exposure
Shouting or barking in the ear110 dB2 minutes of exposure
Sirens120 dBEar pain and injury
Firecrackers140 to 150 dBEar pain and injury

The major question that may arise in your mind is: How to determine the noise level at a construction site? There are three options to do so, as follows: 

1. Sound Level Meter (SLM)

ear plugs for construction

A sound level meter, often abbreviated as SLM, is a small, handheld device providing a noise level reading. It is also referred to as a sound pressure level meter, as it measures sound pressure levels. Simply put, SLM measures the intensity of sounds. 

SLM is generally equipped with a microphone to receive sounds and electronic circuitry. The microphone records the changes in the air pressure generated by the sound source. Further, the electronic circuitry converts the sound into an electrical signal to provide its intensity. 

Microphones used for SLM are categorized into Class 1 and Class. Class 2 microphones are less accurate in measurements compared to Class 1. However, most SLMs use Class 2 microphones. Class 1 microphones are used only when the law prescribes. 

2. Noise Dosimeter 

ear plugs for construction

A noise dosimeter or a noise dosemeter is also a handheld device used to measure the noise exposure of a specific person over a period of time. It gauges and stores the sound pressure levels, integrates the measurements over time, and provides a cumulative noise exposure reading over a time period. 

3. Smartphone App 

ear plugs for construction

Several smartphone apps that provide sound levels are available on the App Store or Google Play Store. One of the most widely used apps is Decibel X:dB Sound Level Meter. It is an iOS-only app that converts your iPhone into a sound level meter 

Factors to Consider When Choosing Ear Plugs for Construction

ear plugs for construction

With an array of options available for construction ear plugs, it becomes challenging to select one. To ease the selection, below, I have mentioned some essential factors to consider when choosing ear plugs for construction. 

1. Noise Reduction Rating (NRR)

A noise reduction rating (NRR) is a metric measured in decibels that represents the effectiveness of a hearing protection device to reduce noise levels. The higher the NRR, the greater the noise reduction. Hence, choose ear plugs for construction with the highest NRR. 

The noise levels across the construction sites vary. So, the best way is to use a SLM and noise dosimeter to determine the noise exposure levels of your construction. If the average noise exposure level is 100 dB, look for ear plugs with at least 15 dB NRR. However, it is always better to go with ear plugs with NRR higher than 15 dB. 

2. Comfort and Fit

Another deciding factor is comfort. As you will be on the construction site for long hours a day, the ear plugs you choose must be comfortable and cause no ear pain or discomfort. A snug and proper fit is a must; otherwise, wearing ear plugs would lead to dissatisfaction and inconsistent usage. In some cases, improper fit may also lead to fatigue. 

Ear plugs come in different types for construction workers, as follows: 

  • Foam Ear Plugs: They are made of soft foam that quickly conforms to the ear canal shape. As soon as you insert foam ear plugs into your ear, they expand and snugly fill up your ear canal.  
  • Pre-Molded Ear Plugs: They are typically made of plastic, silicone, or rubber and come in different sizes. Unlike foam ear plugs, pre-molded ear plugs may not fit perfectly for unusual ear shapes. 
  • Custom-Molded Ear Plugs: These ear plugs are designed from the impressions of your ears to provide an optimal fit. They are considered among the most suitable and comfortable types of ear plugs for construction. 

3. Durability and Longevity

Durability and longevity are other considerable factors for individuals working at construction sites. Ear plugs should be highly durable and withstand different work conditions, as construction workers are primarily exposed to dust and moisture. Look for ear plugs that are moisture- or water-resistant.  

Moreover, ear plugs should be composed of materials resistant to wear and tear. They should last for a long time period while maintaining their effectiveness. 

Top Ear Plugs for Construction Workers

ear plugs for construction

Now, let us move on to discussing the list of handpicked ear plugs for construction workers with their features. 

Noise Reduction Rating: 31 dB

The first on the list of the best ear plugs for construction workers is custom molded ear plugs from Decibullz with an NRR of 31 dB. This means if you are present in a noisy setting with a sound level of 110 dB, wearing these ear plugs can reduce noise to 79dB, which is below a safe listening threshold. Besides construction workers, shooters, travelers, swimmers, concert-goers, and other professionals can also use these ear plugs. 

As the name suggests, these custom-molded ear plugs snugly fit into the shape of your ears. More interestingly, they are re-moldable; simply heat ear plugs in boiling water for 3 to 5 mins, and you can re-shape them. Earpieces are made of reshapeable thermoplastic. 

Once fitted properly, these ear plugs do not cause discomfort or frequently fall out. Instead, they offer a high degree of noise isolation and sound quality. 

You get two thermoplastic custom molds, 3 sets of Triple Flange Tips S, M, L, 1 set of Max Protect MEDIUM foam tips, and a carrying case. 

Pros

  • Optimal fit for every kind of ear
  • Remoldable or reshapeable earpieces
  • Budget-friendly
  • Available in multiple colors

Cons

  • The possibility of sound leakage
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02/18/2024 02:03 pm GMT

Noise Reduction Rating: 34 to 37 dB

Professional Safety earmuffs by Decibel Defense are well-known as the quietest and most comfortable noise-reducing earmuffs. They offer a noise reduction rating between 34 and 37 dB, which is the highest among all the entries on the list. Hence, these ear plugs provide guaranteed hearing protection. They are ideal for shooters, construction workers, concertgoers, drummers, and other professionals working in a noisy setting. 

These ear plugs are foldable, making them a bit portable and lightweight. The headband is extra padded, providing extreme comfort for long hours.

The best part is the company’s customer service. It has a responsive customer support and customer service team to provide the best possible experience to customers. 

Pros

  • The highest noise reduction rating
  • The padded headband offers long-lasting comfort and snug fit
  • A responsive customer support team
  • Foldable and lightweight

Cons

  • Incompatible with helmets and other headgear
  • Bulky

Noise Reduction Rating: 30 dB

Comfort, maximum protection, and durability – Honeywell Leightning L3 Headband Style Earmuff offers all three features. With an NRR of 30 dB, this earmuff maintains a lightweight design, offers excellent noise reduction, and has a contemporary style. 

The padded earcups provide cushioning and smoothness to your ears. The patented airflow control technology manages the course of air inside each earcup and reduces noise across all frequencies. It comes with 3 different sound reduction levels to adjust to different environments. 

Moreover, the earmuff is made of steel wire, which makes it highly durable and able to withstand routine to rough handling. The telescopic headband enables you to adjust it so that it fits perfectly on your head. 

Pros

  • Excellent noise reduction
  • Contemporary style
  • 3 different sound reduction levels
  • Maximum comfort
  • Highly durable

Cons

  • No adjustable headband
  • Ill-fitting
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02/19/2024 01:04 pm GMT

Along with protecting your hearing from hazardous noise, 3M PELTOR electronic ear plugs allow you to have situational awareness and help improve communication in noisy, challenging environments. The kit includes ear plugs, a charging kit, and an assortment of ear tips. 

The small and lightweight design makes these ear plugs highly portable. Plus, the on-off operation and volume level adjustment can be done with a single intuitive button. 

These ear plugs have a microphone and leverage environmental listening technology that adjusts the level of hearing based on surrounding noise. As a result, you can communicate hassle-free with others without having to remove your ear plugs. 

Moreover, these ear plugs and the charging case are weather-resistant. They are specially designed for professionals working in noisy settings. They are compatible with most head-borne personal protective equipment, such as helmets, hats, eyewear, and face shields. 

Pros

  • Highly portable
  • Weather resistant
  • Compatible with head-borne personal protective equipment
  • Small and lightweight
  • Improves situational awareness

Cons

  • Highly expensive

Conclusion

ear plugs for construction

Working for long hours in a loud or noisy area is probably very dangerous for hearing health. Hence, it becomes necessary for construction workers to wear hearing protection and safeguard their hearing health from getting damaged. 

While a plethora of options are available for construction ear plugs, getting overwhelmed when choosing the best one is not unusual. Before making any choice, ensure the ear plugs have a high noise reduction rating, probably 30 dB or above. Next, look for other factors, such as durability, material, comfort, and snug fit. 

More importantly, choose one that offers wireless connectivity with your smartphone, allowing you to receive calls and communicate hands-free. 

As the construction industry is noisy, exposure to loud noises can have detrimental effects on your ears. As a result, do not compromise on choosing high-quality ear plugs. 

Looking for the best Bluetooth hearing protection? Check out: 7 Best Bluetooth Hearing Protection

Head Hearing Health Clinician at | + posts

Florida License: AS-2471 – NPI: 1992749147

Ivonne Baixeras is a Florida-Licensed Hearing Instrument Specialist with a track record of almost three decades treating hearing problems in Miami-Dade County and serving the needs of thousands of satisfied patients. Ivonne is a graduate of both Miami-Dade College & Florida International University and worked for many years at the largest national chain of hearing clinics in the US where she's received multiple awards.

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