Ear defenders or ear muffs are PPE (personal protective equipment) designed to protect the wearer from extreme noises. The head-band and outer covering are usually made from a hard thermoplastic or metal. The protection usually comes from acoustic foam – this absorbs sound waves by increasing air resistance, thus reducing the amplitude of the waves.

Ear defenders can be carried on a head-band or clipped onto the sides of a hard hat. Sometimes ear defenders have built-in radio and music systems or two-way communications. The process of losing sound energy, known as attenuation, can be heightened by using earplugs in conjunction with earmuffs. There are also thermal <a href="https://www.sleepandsound.com.au/ear-muffs">earmuffs</a>, worn in cold environments to keep a person’s ears warm with pads of cloth or fur; however, this guide will focus on ear muffs used to protect the wearer from noise hazards in the workplace.

By law, an employer must assess and identify measures to eliminate or reduce risks from exposure to noise so that employees’ hearing is protected. The protection chosen should reflect the level of risk. Once a noise hazard has been identified and the risks assessed – suitable controls must be implemented. While there are many ways to reduce noise in the workplace such as choosing quieter equipment, introducing engineering controls such as silencers, moving the workplace around to position noise further away from workers; noise cannot always be eliminated and this is where hearing protection comes into play.

The level at which employers must provide hearing protection and hearing protection zones is now 85 decibels (daily or weekly average exposure) and the level at which employers must assess the risk to workers’ health and provide them with information and training is now 80 decibels. There is also an exposure limit value of 87 decibels (dB), taking account of any reduction in exposure provided by hearing protection, above which workers must not be exposed.