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Everything you need to know about workplace hearing protection

Posted by Clayton Thomas on 22 May 2019
Clayton Thomas
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Hearing protection is a serious matter - once it's gone, it's gone!  The good news is, keeping everyone safe from excessive noise in the workshop doesn't need to be complicated - keep reading for your so quick, so easy guide to workplace hearing protection...

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The important facts...

  • Exposure to excessive noise (over 85dB) can cause permanent hearing loss
  • Damage to hearing is one of the most wide spread, yet preventable workplace injuries
  • Hearing loss generally occurs over time, so may not be immediately noticeable

When does hearing protection need to be worn?

Any area where noise levels exceed 85dB you need to wear hearing protection.  85 decibels (dB) is about the level of noise from city traffic from inside your car.  Any level above this can cause damage, the level of damage depending on the level of noise and length of exposure.

Worksafe suggest "If you have to raise your voice to have a normal conversation when standing about a metre apart, for at least part of the day, then noise levels on the site could damage hearing."  Hearing protection alone should not be relied on to control noise exposure in noisy environments - click here for Worksafe's guide to managing risk relating to noise in manufacturing.

What is the best type of hearing protection?

Hearing protection heroEarplugs, earmuffs or both? 

In terms of the level of hearing protection (or noise reduction) provided, both earplugs and earmuffs are capable of providing the same level (provided they are used correctly of course).  Australian/New Zealand Standard, AS/NZS 1270: 2002 tests hearing protective equipment and gives it a classification rating between Class 1 and 5 - Class 5 being the highest.

Of course determining the best type of protection is not solely about whether or not it is capable of doing the job.  You also need to factor in a few things like:

  • What other PPE is being worn? - Choose something that will not be affected by other PPE - eg. slimline earmuffs that fit under helmets, hardhat earmuffs, or earplugs that don't get in the way of anything!
  • How long is the equipment being worn for, and how often? - Choose something that will be comfortable for the wearer.  Uncomfortable equipment can make workers reluctant to wear it, or make them want to constantly adjust it or take it on and off which is dangerous.

New Zealand Hearing Protection Standards

A Class 5 rating is the highest standard for hearing protection  under AS/NZS 1270:2002.  Classes represent the decibel reduction that can be expected from that particular ear protection product. 

To choose the correct class level for your needs, you'll first need to know the level of noise you are potentially being exposed to.  In general, most manufacturing workshops can expect noise levels to exceed 100dB due to the equipment being used - click here for a general guide to noise levels.

Once you know the noise level (in decibels) you're likely exposed to, subtract 80 from this level and you'll have a reduction indicator number. This number can be used against the Class rating to select the minimum protection rating for your requirements. For example, if your level of exposure is 105dB: 105 - 80 = 25, so your reduction indicator number is 25, meaning you would need earplugs or earmuffs with a Class 4 or 5 rating.

Class Rating Workplace Noise Levels SLC80 dB Reduction Range
1 Less than 90dB 10 to 13
2 90dB to less than 95dB 14 to 17
3 95dB to less than 100dB 18 to 21
4 100dB to less than 105dB 22 to 25
5 105dB to less than 110dB 26 or greater


Hearing Protection Selection Guide

Weldclass Promax Bullet Earplugs

Single use, bullet shape earplugs

Class 5, 26dB
Box 200 pairs
Bag 500 pairs

Weldclass Bullet Earplug Class 5

Howard Leight Neckband Earmuffs

Neckband earmuffs - low profile, designed for use with visors, hats and other PPE

Class 5, 30dB


Howard Leight Max Earplugs

Single use, bell shape earplugs

Class 5, 26dB
Box 200 pairs
Pack 400 pairs

Max Earplugs

Howard Leight Hardhat Earmuff

Hardhat earmuffs - with adapters to fit a wide range of popular hard hats

Class 5, 28dB


Esko Vortex Bullet Earplug

Single use, short bullet shape earplugs

Class 5, 26dB
Box 200 pairs

Bag 500 pairs

Esko Bullet Earplug Class 5

Howard Leight Headband Earmuff 

Headband earmuffs - comfortable over-the-head padded foam headband

Class 5, 29dB


Howard Leight Max-Lite Earplugs

Single use, rocket shape earplugs

Class 4, 25dB
Box 200 pairs

Pack 400 pairs

Max-Lite Earplugs

Howard Leight Neckband LowProfile Earmuff

Low-Profile Neckband earmuffs - ultra-slim, low-profile designed to fit comfortably under welding helmets

Class 4, 25dB


Esko Silicon Corded Earplugs (Reusable)

Reusable, washable TPR corded earplugs

Class 4, 22dB
Box 200 pairs

Bag 500 pairs

Esko Silicon Corded Earplugs (Reusable)

Howard Leight Folding Earmuff Class 4/25dB

Folding earmuffs - compact folding design for easy storage

Class 4, 25dB


Click here to view Euromarc's full range of head and ear protection equipment


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Topics: Safety