When you’re on site, you want to be certain that you’re equipped with the best. Your hard hat and eye protection could save your life, so you wouldn’t skimp on them. What about your ear plugs, though? Unfortunately, it’s not always clear when you pick up a pair of disposable foam ear plugs whether they’re strong enough for the kind of work you’re doing. They might say they’re ‘high protection’ (according to whom?) or quote a foreign safety standard that’s not applicable to Australia or New Zealand.

Worry no more. In this blog post, we’ve sifted through all the buzz words and confusing foreign ratings to find you the top five foam ear plugs, according to the Aus/NZ SLC 80 classification. This means you won’t find yourself getting picked up by the WHS officer for improper kit but, more importantly, you also won’t wake up one morning with hearing damage from safety equipment that isn’t up to scratch.

A note, the most relevant thing to look at is the CLASS of the hearing protection, where a higher number is better. A Class 5 would be appropriate for the loudest industrial settings, whereas a Class 4 would be used at the next step down. Avoid going any lower than a Class 4, that should be the minimum for hearing protection at work (and chat to your WHS officer to be certain!)

The Top 5 Strongest Foam Ear Plugs are:

5. 3M EAR™ CLASSIC PLATINUM SMALL EAR PLUGS, SLC 80 23dB, Class 4

($10.95 for 10 pairs, discounts for 25, 50, 100 and 200 pairs)

One of the most popular plugs on the market, the Classic Platinum is a soft and smaller sized plug, excellent for individuals with smaller ear canals or women. As you can see it’s a Class 4 plug, and under the SLC 80 standard it’s rated to about 23dB. This makes it a great option if you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep or if you’re just pottering around on the lawnmower, but if you’re exposing yourself to loud noises day in day out, I’d look at something a little stronger.

That said, the Classic Platinum does excel at work that’s on the border of high noise. If you’re working with an industrial sewing machine, a loud vacuum cleaner, or some other power tool work, these might be enough to keep your ears comfortable over a long shift.

4. HOWARD LEIGHT MAX LITE EAR PLUGS, SLC 80 25dB, Class 4

hl max lite

($8.95 for 10 pairs, discounts for 25, 50, 100 and 200 pairs. Also available in corded model)

The lighter version of the popular Max Line, like the Classic Platinum it’s a Class 4 plug. In this case, it’s rated slightly higher: at 25dB this is getting closer to what you would be looking for on a lot of work sites. If you’re not working with loud tools and are just dealing with incidental noise, this would be a good solution. Similarly, this can be a great solution if you’re someone who already wears earmuffs.

To calculate the level of hearing protection you get when you combine earmuffs with ear plugs, you take the rating from the stronger item and add 5 dB. For example, if you were wearing a Class 5 earmuff rated at SLC 80 26dB and also a pair of Max Lites, that would instead be the equivalent to about 31dB (provided everything was properly fit). These lower strength plugs are a great solution for combining muffs and plugs, since they’re the softer and comfier ones and likely to remain so even after a long day of work.

For workers who prefer a corded model, that’s available too in the Max Lite line. In fact, it’s available for many of the ear plugs Howard Leight produces.

2 and 3 TIE

HOWARD LEIGHT MAX EAR PLUGS, SLC 80 26dB, Class 5

3M™ NITRO™ EARPLUGS, SLC 80 26dB, Class 5

(Both $8.95 for 10 pairs, discounts for 25, 50, 100 and 200)

Entering Class 5, this is the kind of ear plug you should be looking at if you’re working on a loud building site or any other environment involving exposure to loud or disruptive noise. The Class 5 is the highest standard in the Aus/NZ rating (though, as we will see, not all Class 5s are created equal). We’ve given the tie to two great plugs, 3M’s Nitro and the Howard Leight Max.

The Howard Leight Max is a great large-body plug, it can squash small and then expand into even the widest or largest ear canal. A plug like this would not be recommended for sleeping, but for a day of work it’s going to provide a really strong seal and a great level of sound protection. The tapered base makes it very resistant to wiggles or movements throughout the day, this is a plug that’s easily fitted and difficult to dislodge, even when you’re moving around. The Max are a great working solution, the smooth, soil-resistant closed cell-foam skin prevents dirt build-up so you can get a few wears out of a single pair. It boasts that it’s the world’s most popular foam plug, with good reason.

Alternatively, the Nitro offers the same degree of sound protection, in a smaller body reminiscent of plugs like the 3M Classic Platinum. If you’ve found that larger plugs cause discomfort or are too large to make an effective seal, it could be a sign that you have narrow or shallow ear canals. In this case, you want to find a smaller body plug that still offers high protection — the 3M Nitro is a great solution here. It’s an ultra soft foam material so comfortable, particularly if you’re someone who finds their ear plugs get a little itchy or uncomfortable after a day of work. The bright pink design makes them eye catching, very difficult to lose in the car or work bag.

In first place, drumroll please……

1. SPARKPLUGS® MULTICOLOURED FOAM EAR PLUGS SLC 80 29 dB, Class 5

sparkplugs

($9.95 for 10 pairs, discounts for 25, 50, 100 and 200 pairs)

Only one foam ear plug could win the coveted title of strongest and it’s Moldex’s Sparkplugs, foam plugs that offer a whopping SLC 80 29dB rating, the strongest Class 5 foam plug on the market.

Like the Max, the tapered shape makes them easily inserted and difficult to dislodge. They have an extra soft foam that seals comfortably yet snugly: there’s minimal pressure placed on the ear, but you can be confident that the seal is there and blocking out disruptive noise. The low pressure foam is light and comfortable: these plugs work great under a set of earmuffs for those extra loud environments.

The material is 100% PVC-free, relevant for individuals with allergies or sensitive ears, and the level of sound blocking is appropriate for even the loudest environments. If you’re on a work site that requires you to wear a set of foam plugs, don’t risk damage to your ears: the strongest possible protection is the best solution for long term hearing health.

This level of protection is also beneficial if you’re someone who uses plugs to sleep. The level of noise protection far outperforms a number of reusable sleeping plugs on the market. If you’re someone who can’t sleep through the night, or a shift worker looking to improve their naps in the day, the Sparkplugs make for a great snooze solution as well as a worker’s best friend.

To see the rest of our foam ear plugs for work range, click here. Remember to make sure the SLC 80 rating is appropriate for your work environment, if you have questions ask your WHS officer or email us at support@earjobs.com.au.

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