Ear plugs, like most things in life, are not created equal. Now, all ear plugs offer some reduction in noise, but are the ear plugs you’re using providing enough noise reduction?
Whether you’re trying to protect your hearing or just block out distracting background noise, you should look for ear plugs with a high SNR rating if you want to block out as much noise as possible. On this page we’ll explain a bit more about SNR ratings and share the 5 highest SNR ear plugs available in the UK in 2018.
The Single Number Rating, or SNR for short, measures how much noise reduction ear plugs offer in decibels. For example, an SNR of 25 means that the ear plugs reduce the volume of the sound you hear by roughly 25 decibels. So, this means if the environment you’re in has a noise level of 80 decibels, the noise reduction of the ear plugs puts the noise level at roughly 55 dB.
The highest SNR ratings available at the moment are in the high 30s. There are physical limitations on how much noise ear plugs can attenuate, and as yet nobody has managed to create ear plugs with an SNR of 40 or above.
55 dB is below the noise level of a standard conversation and is perfectly acceptable in a working environment. However, as we said above, all ear plugs are rated differently so you must be wearing the right ear plugs in order to get the desired noise reduction.
Without the right SNR ratings, ear plugs could be dangerous. You see, without the correct SNR rated ear plugs, the ear plugs become a placebo. You may think your hearing is safe, but in fact your hearing may become damaged simply because the SNR rating wasn’t high enough for the working environment.
Highest SNR Ear Plugs
Here’s a list of some of the highest-SNR ear plugs currently available in the UK. They won’t completely block out all noise, but they will offer you the highest level of protection possible.
1. 3M EAR Soft FX
SNR: 39 dB
E.A.R Earsoft FX ear plugs have an SNR of 39, which is the highest SNR rating of any pair of ear plugs available in the UK at the time of writing. They are designed with a tapered end, which makes them comfier than many other ear plugs.
These ear plugs are made from a soft material which adapts to fit the shape of your ear canal. They’re popular with motorcyclists who use them to block out wind noise, but they’re also a good choice for sleeping in.
2. 3M E.A.R Push-Ins Reusable Corded Ear Plugs
SNR: 38 dB
3M E.A.R Push-Ins Reusable Corded Ear Plugs have an SNR of 38, so they offer almost as much protection as the Earsoft FX ear plugs mentioned above. These ear plugs start to feel uncomfortable after a few hours, so they’re not a great choice for sleeping in. However, they certainly block out a lot of noise.
These ear plugs can be washed and reused, though you should still replace them regularly.
3. Silverline 282557
SNR: 37 dB
These Silverline ear plugs have an SNR rating of 37, meaning they offer slightly less ear protection than the other two pairs of ear plugs described above.
These ear plugs have a tapered end making them comfier in your ears, and are made from a soft material which will expand to fit your ears. They conform to UK health and safety regulations EN352-2. Each pair is individually wrapped.
4. Howard Leight Laser Lite Soft Foam Earplug
SNR: 35 dB
Howard Leight Laser Lite Soft Foam Earplugs are some of the most popular ear plugs in the UK due to the combination of comfort and hearing protection they offer. They have an SNR of 35 dB which isn’t quite as high as some of the other ear plugs in this roundup but is still very high.
These ear plugs are made from soft polyurethane foam which adapts to fit the shape of your ears. They’re a good choice for sleeping in since they’re so soft. They’re relatively small though, so they could be too small if you have large ears.
5. Moldex SparkPlugs
SNR: 35 dB
These colourful and fun-looking ear plugs offer a serious amount of noise attenuation (35 dB). Moldex SparPlugs are soft and comfortable, making them a good choice for sleeping. Lots of motorcyclists also use them for blocking out wind noise since they’re comfortable for wearing on long journeys.
One of the best things about these ear plugs is that they’re very economical, especially if you buy them in bulk.
Wearing ear plugs in the workplace
Let’s say you work in a joinery factory using hand tools. The noise level of a hand saw is about 85 dB; this means that you can safely stand the noise level (without ear protection) for about eight hours.
Now, take someone at the other end of the factory which is using an electric saw. This saw creates 110 decibels, meaning they can withstand that noise for less than two minutes. If both of you are given the same SNR rated ear plugs of 25, for example, the noise level you are hearing comes in at 60 dB. while the poor guy using the power saw comes in at 85 dB.
So, while you are working away happily all day in the quiet, after eight hours of work, your colleague’s ears are starting to become damaged because of the noise. This damage over time can cause hearing complications and even deafness.
This is why your employers should be providing ear protection that can reduce the noise to manageable levels in different sections of the factory and not just the overall noise within the factory.
So, if you are an employer, ensure that you are checking the noise levels of each section of the factory and buying the correctly rated ear plugs for each section. If you are an employee, ensure that the ear plugs you are using are correctly rated for each section of the factory you are working in.
We aren’t saying that you should have an ear plug wardrobe, one pair for every section, but ensure that you have the highest level needed in the factory if you are moving around it all day, it may make a huge difference to your life if you don’t!