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kebwi 09-16-2009 10:13 AM

Powertool earmuff discussion
If I'm venturing too far off-topic for the culture of the FB forums, let me know and I'll try to refrain from these kinds of discussions.

That said...

I'm curious what advice people have about powertool earmuff protection. These days you can get powered active noise cancelation earmuffs, same basic concept as the ones people use for more general uses, like airplanes and such, but there are also lots of passive, heavily padded earmuffs, the kind people have used forever.

Do people find that active cancelation works well with powertools? Would you recommend them?

With regard to passive earmuffs, are there any suggested ranges of performance, dB reduction, frequency range of effectiveness? Brands to go for, brands to avoid?...overall recommendations?


egalecki 09-16-2009 11:02 AM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
This isn't exactly what you were asking about, but I have a pair of headphones with active noise cancelling. They're not earbuds, but headphones. I use them all the time at work (construction) to get rid of everyone else's noises- I don't wear them when I need real protection, as I do when I am running a saw or something else loud. They work pretty well to reduce the sounds other people are making with saws, radios, mixers, etc. I don't have to turn up my music to unsafe levels (I'm pretty conservative on volume) in order to hear. When my battery quit last week, and I had to use them without the noise cancelling, the difference was pretty clear.

I would expect that noise cancelling ear muffs would work pretty well. I use the plain ones when I need more protection than my headphones provide. Does the package for the ones you're talking about have a db rating on it?

My husband favors the earplugs you squash and put in, but they don't fit my much smaller ears well, and they itch.

Whatever you choose, be consistent in using it, because I know far too many people who are deaf as posts from not using protection!

kebwi 09-16-2009 11:13 AM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
The NRR (noise reduction rating?) on passive headphones tend to be in the 20-30 dB range. Obviously, higher (stronger) is better. The active headphones are a little different. They don't have a single fixed reduction, but rather filter out loud noises while intentionally permitting quieter noises through.

However, not all active cancelation phones do this -- I've never seen this feature advertised for airplane active cancelatiion phones for example -- but some of the construction phones, do, aka the Harbor Freight phones mention a 85 dB cutoff.

I am considering using both squash-in-the-ear and muffs together. Haven't decided yet.

DrakeRemoray 09-16-2009 01:40 PM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
Lots of cheap ones here:
Buy ear muffs from Bilsom, MSA, E.A.R., Moldex, and North.
I used something similar (and a respirator as well) for all the angle grinder work (I did not buy a big tile saw, so my small tile saw would not cut the angles...)


Breven 09-16-2009 01:47 PM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
Keep in mind, whatver you put on your head is going to be covered in brick dust. Expensive noise cancelling headphones will become as messy as your work boots. I've been using small yellow silicone ear plugs for a long time....the kind that look like a christmas tree with a blue cord running between them. You can pick them up at Home Depot or Lowes for cheap. They work great. Been wearing them for years riding my Harley and used them during the whole build. To get them into your canal you need to wet the silicone a bit (usually spit works) and they seal real nice in the ear. These are a whole lot better than the little foam earplugs.

kebwi 09-16-2009 01:59 PM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
Ha! Excellent wisdom Breven. Thanks. I've been looking into the earplugs too. They often have a higher NRR rating than the earmuffs as a matter of fact; I just wasn't sure I believed it (I also considered using both :-D ). So, you're recommending silicon over foam. I'll bear that in mind.


Breven 09-16-2009 02:09 PM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
1 Attachment(s)
Now that I think about it, they might not be silicon...but they look like the picture attached. They might just be a soft rubber. The foamy kind that you sqeeze down and then shove into your canal, don't work nearly as well as these. Plus these are really easy to put in and take out when your not cutting bricks. Also, you can just clean them off with warm water and reuse them 1,000 times.
Now...maybe I should go see about an endorsement check from these earplug companies, eh?

cynon767 09-16-2009 07:22 PM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
I've always had excellent luck with the squishy foam ones. They are easy to put in once you get the hang of it, and are available in 32 NRR, which better than just about anything out there. There are ones available that have a cord tying them together, just like the plastic ones Breven mentioned.

They are what I used when I was working as a line service mechanic on jetliners, so yeah... they work.

I also second what Breven said about noise-cancelling headphones getting dirty... that would be a sad, sad waste. They are great for constant, mid-level noise, but not so much for intermittent high-decibel protection, so they're really not even the best thing for the job.

egalecki 09-17-2009 05:28 AM

Re: Powertool earmuff discussion
I didn't use the headphones when building my oven. I used plugs like Breven shows. I find that they itch, though, and have a pair of the big muff things now, as well. I use the headphones on job sites (building houses) to keep other people's tool noise down- sanders, saws, radio stations I hate, etc. I find them sufficient for this purpose, but NOT for when I am using the tool- too close up, they can't close off enough noise to be safe. Then I use the muffs. Nothing I am doing on a job site will get my headphones cruddy enough to be a problem. No drywall!

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