Hearing protection

When hearing protection should be used

Hearing protection should be issued to employees:

You should not use hearing protection as an alternative to controlling noise by technical and organisational means.

Give HSE's pocket card Noise: Don't lose your hearing to your employees to remind them to wear their hearing protection. You can also order copies from HSE Books.

What the law requires employers to do

You are required to:

Select protectors to reduce noise and avoid overprotection

Protectors that reduce the level at the ear to below 70 dB should be avoided, since this over-protection may cause difficulties with communication and hearing warning signals.

Users may become isolated from their environment, leading to safety risks. This generally may have a tendency to remove the hearing protection and therefore risk damage to their hearing.

The table below gives an indication of the protector factor that is likely to be suitable for different levels of noise (the level during a particular work task, not the daily personal noise exposure). It is based on the single number rating (SNR) value provided with a hearing protection device.

The information is intended as a guide rather than a substitute for using one of the standardised methods for calculating hearing protection performance. It will not be appropriate if there are significant low-frequency components to the noise in question.

The table is not suitable for noise environments which may contain significant low-frequency components.

These include:

To avoid overprotection, you should use hearing protection with SNR values at the lower end of those shown in the table below when the noise is at the lower end of the corresponding range of levels.

Indication of protector factors
A-weighted noise level (dB) Select a protector with the right SNR
85 to 90 20 or less
90 to 95 20 to 30
95 to 100 25 to 35
100 to 105 30 or more

How hearing protection can be used effectively




You will need to make sure that hearing protection works effectively and check that:

Information and training

Hearing protection will only be effective when used and fitted correctly. It should be worn at all times in a noisy environment, as removing it for only a few minutes will considerably lower the protection to the wearer.

You must give users instructions in the correct fitting and use of hearing protection, This includes:

Any instructions or training should also cover:

Checks you need to make

You need to make sure that employees use hearing protection when required to. You may want to:

Updated 2021-10-21