What Does SNR Mean in Relation to Ear Defenders?

SNR stands for Single Number Rating. SNR is the European standard for measuring the amount of noise reduction hearing protectors offer. The US equivalent is NRR (Noise Reduction Rating), which works slightly differently.

An SNR of 20 corresponds to roughly a 20 decibel reduction in the noise that you hear. Knowing the SNR of ear defenders or ear plugs lets you compare them against other products.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) don’t recommend using ear protectors that reduce the decibel level to below 70, as it could mean you won’t be able to hear important noises that could alert you to dangers.

You need a different SNR for different levels of noise:

Noise level in decibels (dB)

Recommended SNR level (source: HSE)

85-90 20 or less
90-95 20-30
95-100 25-35
100-105 30 or above

To give you an idea for how loud different activities are, here are some common locations, activities and objects with their approximate noise levels in decibels:

  • Quiet office: 40 dB
  • Large office: 50 dB
  • Noisy restaurant: 85 dB
  • Factory machinery: 100 dB
  • Leaf blower: 110 dB
  • Football stadium: 117 dB
  • Chain saw: 120 dB
  • Small concert: 120 dB
  • Plane taking off: 140 dB
  • Large rock concert: 150 dB
  • Rifle: 163 dB
  • Shotgun: 170 dB

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