Removal of hearing protectors severely reduces protection

(example of nominal 25 dB protection)

About hearing protection performance and this tool

Performance of hearing protectors is often less than that reported on the packaging. One reason is that protectors are not worn for all of the required time. When protectors are removed in noisy areas, even for short periods, the overall protection provided is severely reduced.

This tool shows the dramatic decrease of effective protection in relation to percentage of the time not worn. In the example, hearing protectors with attenuation of 25dB are provided for 1 hour of noisy work per day.

  • Expected attenuation is 25dB when worn for the full 1-hour (100% of the time).
  • Remove the protectors for just 2 minutes within the hour (protectors NOT worn for 3% of the time) and the effective protection over the full 1-hour is reduced to equivalent hearing protectors with an attenuation of just 14dB.

Any hearing protector worn for half of the time required will give no more than 3dB of effective protection, irrespective of its protection rating.

Employers can improve the protection gained from hearing protection by:

  • Providing a range of suitable hearing protection from which employees can select a model that fits them well and they can use comfortably for the time required;
  • Helping employees communicate without removing hearing protection in noisy areas (by providing quiet areas or protectors with communication facilities); and
  • Ensuring, through training and supervision, that protection is in good condition and is worn at all times in areas where it is required.

Employees have a duty to make full use of hearing protectors which have been provided to them.

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Updated: 2021-02-11