How Many Decibels ((dB) Can Ear Plugs Actually Reduce?

How Many Decibels ((dB) Can Ear Plugs Actually Reduce?


Ear plugs can help block out irritating ambient noise, but did you know how much decibels ear plugs can actually reduce? We'll explain all of them to you in this article, so keep reading!

How Many Decibels ((dB) Can Ear Plugs Actually Reduce?
ear plugs
ear plugs
Ear plugs can help block out irritating ambient noise and protect your ears from dangerous noise. In fact, some regulations require the use of ear plugs or other hearing protection in environments where noise levels may endanger workers' hearing.

However, it's not always clear how well the ear plugs actually work. This can leave you feeling unsure when shopping for ear plugs because you don't know how much they'll do for you.

But figuring out the noise-canceling features of your ear plugs is pretty simple if you know where to look and what the information means. Eastragon's hearing conservation experts explain all of this to you in this article, so read on!

How Much Noise Can Ear Plugs Cancel?

Most properly fitted ear plugs reduce sound by 15-30 decibels (dB). This range is determined by the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).

However, some products, like Eastragon's Long Foam ear plugs for Sleep ES3006, can reduce sound by as much as 38 decibels. This is the highest NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) ever for an ear plug.

However, the NRR of ear plugs is not always accurate.

This is because the testing is done in a controlled environment, so there is a gap between the NRR of the ear plugs and their actual use.

While different organizations use different methods to derate hearing protection equipment, hearing conservation experts all recommend halving the NRR for ear plugs.

This means that if you apply this process to top-of-the-line ear plugs with an NRR of 33 dB, they will only reduce the sound by about 16 dB.

While the NRR of ear plugs determines how much protection they offer, it's not the only factor. The NRR of ear plugs, derated or not, is also affected by:

How do the Ear Plugs Fit?

Ear plugs work by blocking your ear canal, forcing sound through the material and into your ear. This dampens the noise as the vibration of the sound waves is reduced.

Ear plugs must fit snugly in the ear canal to be fully effective. If the ear plug is too loose, sound waves can bypass the ear plug and enter your ear. This will significantly reduce its noise-canceling ability.

Ear Plug Type

The material and type of ear plug can also affect its performance. The density of materials can change how well they insulate and fit. Also, a more malleable material will better fit your ear canal.

Here are the different types of ear plugs and their characteristics:

- Foam Ear Plugs: Because they are soft and formable, the foam ear plugs expand inside your ear canal to fit you. When inserted properly, these ear plugs are usually the most effective at reducing noise. However, they are usually single-use and you should always wash your hands before handling them to prevent infection.

- Preformed Ear Plugs: Unlike foam ear plugs, preformed ear plugs have a fixed and non-malleable shape. They are usually made of rubber or silicone so they can be reused. However, since they're made of harder material, they won't fit your ears as well. You may need to try different sizes to find the one that fits you.

- Moldable Ear Plugs: Moldable ear plugs come in the form of wax or silicone putty that is pushed into the ear. This means they are completely adaptable as they have no fixed form. They do require some prep work, as you'll need to preheat the putty enough to fit the shape of your ear canal. Also, they don't quite match the foam ear plugs in terms of NRR, averaging around 22-23 dB of noise reduction.

- Filtering Ear Plugs: These ear plugs are best for flying, concertgoers, or musicians. They contain small filters that slow down the changes in air pressure you often experience on airplanes and reduce the attenuation of the ear plugs for a clearer but quieter sound.

How to Know How Much NRR You Need?

You might think that the amount of NRR you need depends only on the volume of the noise you want to block. While this is true to an extent, you also need to consider how long you will be exposed to dangerous noise levels.

For example, 85 decibels is safe for eight hours a day. However, if the sound reaches 100 decibels, you can be in danger after only 15 minutes.

This means that you don't always need to buy high NRR ear plugs if you're not exposed to noise for long periods of time.

For example, if you use the machine at 100 decibels for half an hour, you only need to lower the volume to about 90 decibels to be safe. 10 dB of noise reduction is well within the capabilities of many derated ear plugs.

But while you may not technically need it, your aim should be as low as 80 dB as possible.

For a better understanding, here are some common noise sources and their decibel levels:
Source of Noise
Decibel Level (dB)
Risks after repeated exposure
The quietest sound a healthy human ear can hear
No risk of hearing damage
Normal breathing
No risk of hearing damage
Ticking watch or clock, rustling leaves
No risk of hearing damage
Soft whispers
No risk of hearing damage
The hum of a refrigerator, a quiet library
No risk of hearing damage
Normal conversations, air conditioning, heavy rainfall
No risk of hearing damage
Washing machine or dishwasher, vacuum cleaner, shower
You might find this level irritating, but not damaging
City traffic from inside a car, alarm clock, toilet flush, noisy resteraunt
You might find this level extremely irritating, but the noise is inconsistent so there is little risk of hearing damage
Gas-powered lawnmowers and leafblowers, hairdryer, kitchen blender
Potential damage to your hearing after two hours of exposure
Motorcycles, forklifts, electric drill
Potential damage after about 50 minutes
Approaching subway train, car horn at 16 feet (5 meters), busy sporting events, snowmobiles
Potential hearing loss after 15 minutes
The maximum volume level for personal listening devices, a very loud radio, stereo, or television, loud entertainment venues
Potential hearing loss after five minutes
Shouting or barking into your ear, power saw, jackhammer, symphony orchestra

Potential hearing loss in less than two minutes
Close sirens or alarms, chainsaws, thunder, oxygen torches, aircraft takeoff
Pain and injury to the ears
Firecrackers, auto racing, jet engines, gun shots
Pain and injury to the ears

What to Do When Ear Plugs Aren't Enough

If noise exposure is too high for your ear plugs to be enough, then you can try double hearing protection.

Dual hearing protection means that you wear two types of hearing protection at the same time. Usually, this requires wearing both ear plugs and earmuffs.

This helps enhance protection by doubling up on the sound-blocking material and offering two different fits, giving you a better chance of achieving a perfect seal.

How Much Noise Does Double Hearing Protection Reduce?

Doubling up on hearing protection doesn't offer as much protection as you might think.

To calculate your protection level, you cannot simply add together the NRRs of two hearing protection devices. The hearing conservation experts at Eastragon suggest some calculations you can follow:

- Determines the volume (in dB) of the noise exposure.

- Find out which hearing protection has the highest NRR. Subtract seven from this number.

- Add 5 to the resulting Field Adjusted NRR to account for the second hearing protector.

- Subtract that number from the decibel number of noise exposure. The resulting number will be the volume you will hear when using double hearing protection.

For example, you work eight hours and are exposed to 110 decibels of noise. You have ear plugs with an NRR of 32 dB, which isn't enough to keep you safe while derating. The NRR of your earmuffs is 18 dB.

- You are exposed to 110 decibels of noise.

- The maximum NRR of this ear plug is 32dB. Subtract 7 from this number to get a field-adjusted NRR of 25.

- Add 5 to this number to account for earmuffs. This will give you an overall NRR of 30 dB.

- Take 30 from 110 to get 80. This means that when using this double hearing protection, you will be exposed to 80 decibels of noise, which is within the safe range.

Now you know how to determine how well your ear plugs are noise-canceling and when you need to use them. Your hearing should be safe in any situation!

Buy Ear Plugs From Eastragon

Eastragon is a professional custom hearing protection ear plugs and earmuffs manufacturer. We offer high-quality custom noise-canceling ear plugs to suit your specific needs and requirements. We provide free packaging design and exclusive customization of new colors and molds. Our 3D technology ensures that our ear plugs are designed and rendered to the highest quality. We also provide free samples and arrange delivery within 5 working days, and take strict quality control measures to ensure your satisfaction. Our products have passed CE certification and can be sold in Europe. We can even help you create product videos and photos. Contact us for custom noise-canceling ear plugs and protect your ears from harmful noise!
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