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You know you should be wearing hearing protection in the shop, but you don’t want to stop what you’re doing just to grab it. Do this enough times, and you might find yourself asking why everybody has started mumbling.

To avoid becoming one of 15% of the adult population with noise-induced hearing loss, you might benefit from 3M’s NI-100 Noise Indicator. Accurate to 3dB, the noise indicator flashes red every second when noise levels rise above 85 dBA (the dB limit where hearing protection is recommended) — and flashes green every second when the noise level is below 85dBA. If it isn’t flashing, either you forgot to turn it on or the battery is dead.

Weighing only 17 grams, the NI-100 can hang from your shirt on the included badge clip. The rechargeable battery will operate for up to 200 hours. To save the battery, the device will power down after 10 hours or so. A mini-USB cable plugs into the bottom of the device for charging.

Pricing for 3M’s NI-100 starts around $30 before shipping.

Article on Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders [website]
NI-100 [3M]
Street Pricing [Google]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

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23 Responses to Portable Reminder To Protect Your Hearing

  1. Toolhearty says:

    Be even cooler if the noise indication was a really, really loud buzzer (so you can hear it over the noise).

    Seriously, does anyone need to be told they’re in a noisy environment?

    Is this for deaf people? That would be ironic.

  2. Fong says:

    @Toolhearty, I’m guessing it’s for people who don’t know how loud 85db actually is. Some people also have a high tolerance for noise and “loud” doesn’t bother them so they’ll have damage without knowing it.

  3. Jaxx says:

    Well I work around aircraft but not on a live airfield, and sometimes I wonder whether I am a “safe” distance away from a/c especially during engine runs while nearby and not wearing ear defenders or plugs. Personally I can’t tell when a noise is on the threshold between annoying and damaging, so I can see a use for it right there. If you work with xrays you have to have a absorption indicator why not the same for noise?

    So something like this would be great if it came free with a box of 3m roll lock disks or whatever, but I can’t see myself buying it, unless this years annual hearing test shows some degradation :/

  4. This is more of a “hey, this noise can PERMANENTLY DAMAGE YOUR HEARING!!” type of an alarm than a simple noise indicator. It serves as a reminder that anyone in the vicinity should wear hearing protection or leave the area.

    It’s also pretty neat that it charges via USB.

  5. Toolhearty says:

    I’ve read the comments and, sorry, but I still don’t see a need. It would be one more thing I’d have to wear/carry. I keep at least two pair of disposable earplugs on me always and put them in if I’m somewhere that could be considered “noisey”. It’s not that much trouble.

  6. I’d buy one just to bring to sporting events and shove in the faces of people who bring infants along and don’t give the babies earplugs. Idiots.

  7. rick says:

    I think thats a great item. I am frequently walking around shipyards and its hard to tell if you are truely in an enviorment that needs hearing protection.

    I am off to order one.

  8. Jerry says:

    Huh? Eh, what did you say? For those who see no need, all is good. For those who see a need, wouldn’t it make sense if it vibrated when the noise level was too high as well as flash the lights? Not sure I would notice a little blinking light on the front of my shirt. Besides someone might put on a jacket and cover the lights. Just put a little vibrator in there like in your cell phone.

  9. zoomzoomjeff says:

    Alan–I totally agree about the baby thing. Pisses me off to no end when a baby is exposed to extremely loud noises just because a stupid-ass parent doesn’t care.

    Would be kind of neat thing to have if the price was a little lower. It might help “train” us on when we should put in the earplugs. I admittedly never want to put ’em in at the racetrack, but probably should.

  10. Gil says:

    I’d like to wear that while feeding the big cats.

  11. Jim K. says:

    I agree that I’d probably like a vibrator in addition to or instead of the light. I just can’t think of how I’d wear it that would be sure I’d see it.

  12. I could see mounting something like this in my shop. Sometimes I fire up a tool “just for a second” and don’t think I would need hearing protection, or I’m being lazy. This would be a good reminder that I’m causing permanent damage, especially when “just a second” turns into half an hour.

    I’ve also worked at a few places where this would have been helpful for some of the more stubborn employees.

  13. Jason says:

    This might be a little useful depending on how long the battery lasts. I wouldn’t want to be charging it all the time.

    My hearing is already gone a bit so I wonder if this would help at all.

    I improvise with my hearing protection and just use some wirenuts.

  14. Brau says:

    Sounds great. I’d like one for the workshop, jam studio, and my car. That said, I wonder how many times we just don’t wear protection when we know we should (just one or two hammer strokes won’t hurt will they?) and I’m fairly sure I’d simply learn to ignore it after a while

  15. Keith says:

    Neat device, but way over priced. 3M should be giving these away as promotional material so that they can sell us the necessary protection.

  16. Chris says:

    People still think that loud noise causes hearing loss!! There have been numerous test showing that this is not the case. They tested many people in many lifestyles from club DJ’s to explosives experts and found that loud noises only caused short term loss and that full hearing returned after just a few hours to a few days. Long term hearing loss was more to do with old age than anything else. Still though it’s better to wear ear protection as I can’t stand that ringing sound after loud noises. I was a dj for over 12 years in some of the worlds loudest clubs night in night out. My hearing is still as good as it was 20 years ago.

  17. @Chris:

    People still think that loud noise causes hearing loss!! here have been numerous test showing that this is not the case.

    Why didn’t you post links to these supposed studies? Probably because they don’t exist or aren’t in a reputable journal. Just because you hear about a study on the news, which was probably misrepresented anyway, doesn’t mean it overturns years of other well done studies.

    Let’s start here:


    Despite what many people think about the government, the NIH is pretty reputable. If there was real evidence to what you are saying they would change their information.

    Now lets look at Pub Med for DJ’s and hearing loss:


    Hmm… 2009, DJs experienced tinnitus and low frequency losses.

    That’s just picking the low hanging fruit.

    Before you go off spouting information that’s going to damage other people’s quality of lives, I’d suggest you do some basic research first, better yet leave it somebody else who actually can.

  18. Dave P says:

    Dang Ben, you lit his ass up!

  19. Keith says:


    If your ears are ringing the (supposed) damage has already occurred.

    There are multiple ways to damage/loose hearing. Loud noise is just one of them. I think that is the one in question and that most people here are concerned with.


  20. Coach James says:

    “Neat device, but way over priced. 3M should be giving these away as promotional material so that they can sell us the necessary protection.”

    Give away a $30 item so they can sell us $2 ear plugs sounds like a bad business plan.

  21. Keith says:

    “Give away a $30 item so they can sell us $2 ear plugs sounds like a bad business plan.”

    Just because something sells for $30 doesn’t mean it is worth $30, chances are it is a $2 item itself. A microphone, an op amp or comparator, a battery, an LED and a few resistors … Mere pennies. I was referring more towards expensive noise canceling headphones

  22. Old as Dirt says:


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