This week we’re continuing our tech spotlight blog series by talking about something a little more niche: over-the-ear (OTE) protection. OTE protection, more commonly known as “ear muffs”, is not something everyone is going to use. They’re big, bulky, and not practical for a lot of daily or social actives. However, for those who work in particularly noisy or messy surroundings, or for those who need a level of professional customization, these are possibly some of the best the tools on the market to help protect your hearing.
OTE hearing protection can be found online or at your local hardware store. They resemble earphones, and fit completely over your ear. No matter the brand, you can adjust the tightness to your level of comfort.
The rims are cushioned and comfortable, some are sweat resistant, and you can wear them for hours at a time. One popular type is even collapsable for easy storage.
Uses and Advantages
Ear muffs are commonly used by construction workers, hunters, and (with some upgrades) airline pilots. They are portable, require less maintenance than, and have similar NRR ratings to*, reusable in-the-ear plugs.
They are ideal for constant use, and can be easily removed, replaced, and stored. You don’t have to worry about irritation or introducing dirt or debris into your ear canal. Earmuffs are also one size fits all (though some brands offer a range of sizes).
Every now and then, it’s recommended you wipe down the inside with some water (though you won’t need to do this nearly as much as you would with reusable ear protection). Compressed air also helps to clear out any skin flakes that may have gotten trapped inside.
At $10.00 – $20.00 for a standard pair on Amazon, they are relatively inexpensive.
Using with Other Protection
Some people double up and wear ear muffs in addition to disposable or reusable plugs. This can help if you find yourself in an extremely noisy or harsh accoustic environment. Coopersafety.com breaks down how this works in regards to NRR ratings:
“When hearing protectors are worn in combination (i.e. earplugs AND earmuffs), rather than adding the two NRR numbers together, you simply add five more decibels of protection to the device with the higher NRR. For example, using 3M™ E-A-R™ Classic Earplugs (NRR 29) with 3M™ Peltor™ H7 Deluxe Earmuffs (NRR 27) would provide a Noise Reduction Rating of approximately 34 decibels.”
Most people opt for a single set of ear protection, however, whether that’s disposable, reusable, over-the-ear, or custom varieties. Each have their strengths.
Next up: custom ear plugs. (This is where your audiologist comes in to help.)
*Regarding NRR ratings: your base level ear muffs will typically have a lower score than your run of the mill disposable or reusable plug. You can purchase brands, however, with comparable noise valuations.