Earmuffs are a common form of hearing protection for workers across all industries. With versions that can be attached to hard hats and with an easy on and off design, earmuffs are favoured by many workers. However, while using earmuffs may seem simple, using them properly isn’t always as straightforward as people think. Many misconceptions exist around the use of earmuffs, which can result in improper use and lack of proper hearing protection in environments with hazardous noise.
3M Canada is the leader in worker health and safety, which is why we’re shattering some of the most common earmuff myths to help workers protect their hearing.
Reality: While it’s true that it is easier to correctly fit earmuffs than earplugs, not all styles of earmuffs are worn the same way and it is actually possible to wear them incorrectly. Selecting a pair of earmuffs that fits properly depends on the other types of personal protective equipment (PPE) that are being worn with it. Wearing other pieces of PPE can compromise the seal of the earmuffs, which is what provides workers with the hearing protection they require. Types of PPE that should be considered when selecting a pair of earmuffs include hard hats, safety glasses, welding shields and hair nets.
Reality: Any type of headgear (including hoodies, baseball caps, toques, Tyvek® hoods or hair nets) can interfere with the seal of the earmuff, causing a reduction or significant loss of hearing protection. A properly worn earmuff fully encloses the ear and seals tightly against the head.
Reality: When hearing protectors aren’t worn properly for the duration of a shift in hazardous noise, a worker’s protection drops dramatically. For example, wearing hearing protection for only seven hours out of an eight-hour shift causes protection to drop by two-thirds. When working in hazardous noise, workers are at risk of hearing loss every time they lift their earmuffs to speak to a coworker, readjust their PPE or even to cool down on a hot day.