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On the jobsite, we often overlook hearing protection, because it’s easy to ignore — hearing damage is a “pay later” situation that most are comfortable gambling with, until it’s too late and the harm is done. Band-style earplugs are both cheap and effective, but the real question is, would you wear ’em all day?

Small in-ear plugs can block quite a bit of sound, and a set like the ones pictured here are rated 28 out of 30 on the sound-protection scale. They’re almost disposable at around $7 a pair, and the local big box always carries ’em.

Our only complaint: Because of their design, they put a great deal of pressure on your ears as they squeeze together to remain stuck on your head. Do you just get used to this? Or are over-the-ear cans better, despite their dorkiness? Let us know in comments.

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20 Responses to Hot or Not? In-Ear, Band-Style Hearing Protection

  1. o1d_dude says:

    Not a fan. There’s too much pressure in the ears and after a while you just find reasons not to wear them.

    I have a pair of in-the-ear plugs that are linked with a small plastic string. While not quite as high in noise reduction (23 out of 30) they are far more comfortable and I wear them. They are sold in a small plastic storage container.

  2. Medium,

    I used to like to wear these, because they’re light and cheap to replace, but I found if you didn’t position them exactly right the band would telegraph scratching sounds right into my ears. While they weren’t loud enough to cause damage, they did get pretty annoying after a while.

    I never noticed them putting too much pressure on my ears, though.

    I’ve taken to using the plastic plugs tied together by a plastic string instead. They are smaller and don’t seem to have the telegraphing problem.

  3. Not hot. Back when I still worked in a loud office (90-95 decibels for 10 hours a day) I tried everything and always came back to these: http://www.nothingbuthardware.com/302577.html

    The ones with the band are annoying if you’re taking respirators or hats or face shields or even just safety glasses on and off a lot. The AOSafety ones were comfortable and blocked enough noise…IMO unless you’re working around REALLY loud stuff, a lot of the hearing protection out there is over the top. It’s nice to still be able to tell when people are taking to you.

  4. rums says:

    Hot.

    I let them hang around my neck with the band in front when not in use, which allows me to put them back on with one hand just before I need to make some noise.

    No complaints about pressure, but I’m not wearing them for long periods of time either. Agree with the ‘telegraphed scratching sounds’ but I’ll stick with the convenience of quick one handed operation and saving my hearing for old age over the minor negatives.

  5. Frank Townend says:

    I’m going to say Hot as I put my hearing aids away for the day. All (effective) hearing protection is hot, some more so than others. As o1d_dude say’s they are a little hard against the ear so I like the active sound dampening style best.

  6. ToolFreak says:

    The band style ones are probably good for short term on-off-on-off use, especially when you just need them on for a minute and then want to store them around your neck until you need them again. For situations where they’ll be used for longer periods, the seperate ones you stuff in your ear are fine, and for extremely loud environments, the over-the-ear cans are what you really need anyway. Comfortable over-the-ear ones with the built-in headphones for listening to either a radio or a portable mp3 player are great for the jobsite, and makes work a little more fun.

  7. Old Donn says:

    Not. Still use the dorky muffs. Granted, they’ve got their own problems, but they work best for me. And, the radio feature is a positive.

  8. Chris says:

    Not. Every pair of these I’ve ever tried was horribly uncomfortable, which means people won’t use them. They’re also damned near impossible to “seat” in your ears to get the full noise reduction benefits, which means that 28 NRR is pretty optimistic.

    As ToolFreak said, they’re useful if you have very short bursts of noise and long periods of quiet. I’m having a really hard time imagining what sort of environment that might be, though, and for pretty much all the noisy work I’ve ever done, in-ear plugs or over-ear muffs were a far better choice.

    cl

  9. DaveS says:

    For pure noise reduction, nothing beats a good set of muffs. On a long day though, they give me a pretty serious headache.

    If I’m seeing it right, the in-ear band pictured is not great, but I don’t like any of the compressible foam ear plugs. They all seem to set up while sitting in my ears, and if my ears shift while I’m leaning into something it takes them a while to conform to the new ear shape.

    I haven’t seen my favorite in-ear band version in stores for several years, and I’m a bit worried mine will fail soon and I won’t be able to get replacements. The business end is a little air-filled pillow, and it sits against the ear canal opening instead of in it. The air padding both reduces noise transmitted through the band and distributes the band pressure a bit better. I’ve worn them for hours at a stretch with no discomfort. Sound reduction is a rated couple of db less than others, but it seems to be just a good at blocking higher frequencies – which means you can still understand voices well even while the tools are screaming.

  10. WillM says:

    I like them, myself. One major plus at least for me verses foam plugs is that you don’t have to touch them with you hands when you put them in. There is nothing like rolling around ear plugs in you fingers when they are covered with dirt and grease and then putting them in your ears. I get dirty enough as I am.

  11. PutnamEco says:

    Not, I prefer headphone style.

  12. DanK says:

    The best think I ever did for hearing protection was get a set of custom plugs! They are made with liquid silicone.
    I got mine at a motorcycle show for about $45 and have been using them for everything from grinding/hammering to riding and shooting.
    Once you are used to them, they take about 2 seconds to pop in and out and they block over 32db of sound.
    You can get them on a tether if you like to just drop them around your neck or in my case I just drop them in my shirt pocket when not in use.
    This isn’t the company I got mine through, but the first one I found on a quick search: http://www.ultimateear.com/

  13. Jim K. says:

    I have to side with the folks saying they prefer muffs. I’ve just never found these all that comfortable. I do have a pair of molded ones like the AOSafety ones that I use occasionally and they’re not too bad though and as others have said, any protection is better than none.

  14. FourMat says:

    Definitely Hot,

    I’ve had a pair of these that I’ve used on and off for 10 years. Keep em in the top of the tool box. They are not porous foam to you ca wipe off he ear wax, and they fit my ears just fine. It takes a little bit to get them set up,in the ear, but when I do, I can wear them all day. Just used them yesterday while using a framing nailer gun. Again, as everyone else said, the band allows you to keep them handy around your neck.

  15. MIG-ateur says:

    HOT!

    I have small ear canals and the roll-and-stuff kind of plugs eventually “grow” to the point it feels like someone is driving a drift pin into my ears – a major headache results. These plugs fit comfortably for as long as I need to use them. I work in electric power facilities where the noise levels are deafening and these plugs definitely do the trick. As for putting too much pressure on the ears, the band can be adjusted by heating and flexing to get it just right. At least it has always worked for me. I hate the “muffs” style and they get in the way of my hardhat and safety glasses.

    These are the ONLY type of hearing protection I will even consider wearing!

  16. Dano says:

    I like the foam types. I sleep with them on. No hearing cars go by or the heater kicking on and off. I could care less if theres someone knocking at my door, telephone call or fire alarm. I’ll sleep good.

  17. TL says:

    Not. For me these are the least comfortable option. I’ll choose either foam plugs or muffs (or both) over these any day.

  18. Perry Jones says:

    I like these, but I only have them in-ear for relatively short periods of time. The bright orange band makes them easy to store and to find.

    As mentioned above, they do telegraph the sound of anything that contacts the plastic arch. I constantly hear my earrings bumping into it.

  19. Yuppers says:

    Hot – biggest plust is that you don’t get the plugs dirty “rolling them up”. The rubber ones are good but the plastic wire that holds them as a pair, get tangled or doesn’t stay around your neck. I def like the way the ear-band one stay around your next. But as mentioned before, any hearing protection is hot.

  20. Avisciciulli says:

    I used to work in a very very very large pressroom for one of the world’s largest printers. 8 web presses going 24 hours a day with multiple folder knives chopping away. Even in my junky little office built within the pressroom, we needed hearing protection. On the floor, it was like being in front a rock concert “stack”. You’d lose your voice after an hour of b.s.ing with one of the guys because you were yelling at each other the whole time.

    Anyways, we ordered every possible type of protection you could think of. Cheap rough foam sucked, but they were cheap so we always had a ton of them. The softer foam “bell” shaped inserts were pretty popular, but more so when attached with a cord. I’ve personally always preferred those. I’ve seen some ratings for those around ~30 db reduction.

    I got a pair of Bilsom Leightnings a while back. They’re rated around 32. I wish they were a bit more, but they are the most comfortable and best sealing pair I’ve tried on. They make hours of a press’ cutter blade so much easier to bear. Great for quieting 9hp snowblowers too.

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