Disposable ear plugs: Are you sure you are making the right choice?

Are they really hearing protection devices?

For the good hearing health of your staff, it is important to protect them from noise levels higher than 80 dB(A). Hearing protection devices should be suitable and effective.

A hearing protection device is effective only if it is worn 100% of the time spent in a noisy environment!
Not wearing it for 10 minutes at 80 db(A) reduces its efficiency by 40%!

A hearing protection device acts like an umbrella: When it is open, it protects you from rain. Close it for 10 minutes and you are wet! Even if you reopen it, you remain wet!
If you remove your hearing protection for a few minutes in high intensity noise, the level of noise received will tire your ears, leading to tinnitus and eventual hearing loss.

Are disposable ear plugs an effective solution? Not really...

Even if standard disposable ear plugs are easy to distribute among employees who are exposed to noise, everyone agrees with the fact that such devices...;

  • ...are uncomfortable and poorly adapted
  • ...irritate the ear canal or the ears
  • ...make it difficult to communicate in a noisy environment
Disposable ear plugs

Furthermore, their efficiency is questioned by studies done by manufacturers. The studies reveal that kind of hearing protection devices do not fit well in the ears.

Wearing disposable ear plugs is not as easy as it seems! They can be improperly inserted and/or not sufficiently rolled to enable expansion and optimal fit in the ear canal. If not adapted to the size of the ear canal, they fall out.

If improperly inserted, a hearing protection device meant to cut noise by 30 dB(A), will only reduce it by 10 dB(A) in reality! And how will the user know if the disposable ear plugs are correctly inserted? How many users correctly wear their traditional hearing protection devices when exposed to noise?

 Correct and wrong placement

Are disposable ear plugs a profitable investment? Not really...

Why are 3MTM or HoneywellTM standard hearing protection devices preferred?

  • Easy to deploy in workshops: few boxes can be kept from time to time
  • Standards: disposable or reusable ear plugs and ear muffs should be suitable for everyone
  • 10, 20, 30 cents per set of noise-reducing plugs: this does not seem expensive

Result: Disposable plugs seem to fulfill the need to protect employees by providing an apparently cost-effective solution.

Such savings are deceptive, since users wear the devices improperly or do not wear them at all!

Manufacturers recommend using 1 to 2 pairs per day, per employee, or even more, depending on the kind of usage. With 2 pairs per day, you will use 440 disposable ear plugs per year, per employee (2 plugs x 220 days)!

This makes more than 2 boxes per employee! On the basis of 13 cents, the cost is $65 per employee each year.

People exposed to noise Theoretical annual budget (Disposable ear plugs)
1 $65
50 $3,250
100 $6,500
300 $19,500
600 $39,000

Is your budget lower than what it should be? Perhaps your employees do not wear their hearing protection devices as often or the way they should be worn.

Result: Your employees suffer from tinnitus and eventually hearing loss (a few at age 40, and many by age 50), with the more fragile facing the risk of complete deafness. As for your organization, it will spend an average of $100,000 for each confirmed case of deafness.

If standard hearing protection devices were worn, you wouldn’t have chosen the more economical solution!

If disposable ear plugs are not worn 100% of the time spent in noise, they will not be effective. You wouldn’t buy gloves that do not protect your employees' hands. The same applies to their ears!

In order to have effective hearing protection devices that are wearable 100% of the time one is exposed to noise, users would prefer custom hearing protectors over disposable earplugs because they...

  • ...are comfortable enough to be worn all day
  • ...allow for communication in noisy places
  • ...are immediately easy to wear
  • ...are easy to clean