Ear defenders or acoustic earmuffs are designed to cover a person's ears for protection against noise. A headband fits over the top of the head and a pad on each side covers the ears. The ear cups are lined with sound-deadening material for hearing protection or isolation from ambient noise on construction sites and other noisy work environments. Ear defenders thus protect the wearer from noise which would otherwise be uncomfortable or even hazardous to long-term hearing.
Other types of hearing protection
When should hearing protection be used?
Ear defenders should be worn by employees when extra protection is needed above what has been achieved using noise control or as a short-term measure while other methods of controlling noise are being developed. You should not use ear defenders as an alternative to controlling noise by technical and organisational means.
Hearing Protection Information
Levels of Protection Physical Agents (Noise) Directive - 2003/10/ECA
This Directive is now in place and became law in early 2008. It requires that persons working in noise levels between
80dBA (Lower Action Level) & 85dBA must be provided with suitable hearing protection on request. Where noise levels
are at or above 85dBA (Upper Action Level), suitable hearing protection must be supplied and worn. In addition,
new "Exposure Limit Value" requires that no worker may be exposed to more than "87dBA 8 Hour Equivalent" under
any circumstances, taking into account any hearing protection worn, (the 87dBA level is that INSIDE the Hearing
Protector). There are also new "Action Values" for impact noise and the requirement for Risk Assessments in the
workplace is reinforced by Article 4 of the new Directive.
Ear protection dos and don'ts
Ensure sufficient ear protection – at least below 85 dB at the ear.
Target ear defenders to noisier tasks in a working day.
Consider suitability, comfort and hygiene.
Think about other personal protective equipment being worn – hard hats, goggles, dust masks.
Provide a range of ear defenders so that employees can choose which ones suit them best.
Provide ear defenders which cut out too much noise – this can cause isolation (which can make workers unaware of certain environment contingencies that they need to be aware of) or a reluctance to wear them.
Force workers to wear defenders when it is not a legal requirement.
Apply a generalist rule which may not be appropriate for some circumstances.