Why do I need to protect my hearing?

Your hearing is connected to so many other processes in your brain, including your cognition and memory, so making sure your hearing is as good as it can be can help you stay healthy and happy for as long as possible. Even though hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions, it can be pretty difficult to notice in the earliest stages, so many people let their hearing get worse without realising. A mixture of good hearing protection and regular hearing tests are easy ways to help monitor your hearing and minimise hearing loss.

What is a dangerous decibel level?

Sound volume is measured in decibels or dBA. Long-term or repeated exposure to sounds louder than 85dBA has been shown to cause hearing loss. As you might expect, the louder the sound, the shorter the period of time before symptoms of hearing loss becomes apparent.1

A motorbike engine sits at around 90dBA but it may surprise you that listening to headphones at maximum volume can actually exceed this and reach 100dBA or more. Volumes around 70dBA, such as a toilet flushing, loud conversation etc., can all be tolerated for long periods of time without seriously affecting your hearing.

Hearing damage can start at around 85 decibels (dB) when you’re exposed to it for eight hours or more without hearing protection. After that, for every noise increase of 3dB the exposure time cuts in half. For example, you can only be exposed to 88dB sounds levels safely for four hours, 91dB for only two hours, and so on. 

How can I protect my hearing?

The best way to protect your hearing is to avoid loud noise. But we know that this isn’t always so easy, especially if you work in noisy environments like construction sites and factories.

Employers should carry out a noise assessment and then determine the correct type of hearing protection needed; this will depend on several factors, including the level of noise and the amount of exposure an employee has to it. It’s also the employee’s responsibility to make sure they use the hearing protection provided.

But it’s not only workplaces that could damage ears. More young people are being affected by hearing loss because they are listening to personal music devices, and going to concerts, festivals and clubs with noise at damaging levels. While we wouldn’t want you to miss out on gigs, there are some things you can do to protect your ears – like not standing too close to speakers or, even better, using instant-fit earplugs or some custom hearing protection.

Wearing hearing protection is an easy way to help you protect your hearing. Hearing protection ultimately focuses on reducing the total volume that reaches your ears in both the short and long term without you having to worry too much about where.

Types of ear protection

Our specialised hearing protection products are designed to protect your ears, but will also allow you to hear important sounds, like voices, clearly. They range from instant fit products for occasional leisure and DIY use to custom-fit devices aimed at providing protection at work or in more specialised environments.

Foam earplugs

These are the most well-known type of earplugs. Cheap, easy to mould to your ear and disposable, they’re also very effective in blocking the majority of external noises. They have a range of uses from blocking out snoring to music and concert venues making them an excellent choice for many. 

You can’t reuse this type of earplug, as the foam is an excellent breeding ground for infection, and they trap moisture and bacteria if they are used repeatedly.

Custom earplugs

Custom earplugs are bespoke plugs that are designed to fit the shape of your ear canal. Due to their shape, many find them easier to insert and wear over long periods of time.

Although they’re a bigger initial investment, because they can be reused, they save money over the long term. You just need to remember to clean them regularly.

Capsule or earmuff hearing protection

Capsule hearing protection is great for protection against very loud and or extreme short-term noises. As they cover your ears and have a band around your head, they’re more suited to industrial or work environments rather than at-home or everyday use.

Custom-fit hearing protection

Produced from an impression taken of your ears, or in select stores, from 3D scanning, custom-fit hearing protection provides an individual and comfortable fit with guaranteed levels of protection.

Made from soft, medical-grade silicone, our best custom hearing protection is more hardwearing and the bespoke fit means that you can wear them for longer than standard ear plugs with greater levels of protection and comfort.

There are a variety of options, from general use to specialised in-ear earplugs for motorcyclists, swimmers, surfers, shooters, travellers, DIYers and those in need of a good night’s sleep.

Custom hearing protection is available from €125, available in a wide choice of colours and guaranteed for one year*.

Sleep plugs

Sleep problems can be caused by many things like snoring, noisy neighbours or noisy environments, or maybe just an irregular work pattern. Designed for light sleepers, SleepPlugs block out ambient noise from the outside world (and that noisy snorer next to you) to make sure you get a peaceful night’s sleep. Made of an ultra-soft silicone and a flexible shape, you can be assured these ear plugs for sleeping remain comfortable no matter how you sleep – it’s got to be better than ear muffs right? 

Swimming Plugs

SurfPlugs or SwimPlugs are great earplugs for swimmers who are regularly in and out of the water. These earplugs fit deep into the ear canal and cover the bowl of the ear which helps to stop water from getting into your ear canal and reduces the risk of developing ear infections. The silicone used does not shrink or harden and options are available which allow them to float.

Industrial Plugs

Great for industrial workers, DIY enthusiasts, or anyone working in loud environments or who regularly handles things like power tools or lawnmowers, WorkPlugs provide essential protection from prolonged, high decibel sounds. These custom fit earplugs are both comfortable and offer peace of mind that your job or hobby is not affecting your hearing.

GunPlug Passive

Originally designed for military use, ShooterPlugs ear defenders for shooters, incorporate a state-of-the-art passive impact noise filter. This gives shooters the best protection for shooting or other pastimes where noise can suddenly be instantaneous. They work by blocking out the damaging noise of a gunshot or any hobbies with sudden high decibel sounds, while still letting you hear conversations and ambient sounds close by.

Music Plugs

For regular concert goers, clubbers and musicians, MusicPlugs protect your ears from loud music while keeping the original clarity and without blocking out conversations. So, if you’re working with customers, you will still hear clearly what they’re saying over the high levels of sound.

Find out more

Bike Plugs

Wind and motorcycle engine noise are a constant problem for motorcyclists, both of which can seriously damage your hearing. Perfect for everyday motorcyclists, BikerPlugs fit comfortably underneath your motorbike helmet to reduce wind and engine noise on long rides without isolating you from the road.

Motor Racing Plugs

There’s no need to miss a decent race, no matter what the noise level, with these ear plugs for motorsport. Motor Racing Plugs’ fantastic technology give motorsport enthusiasts a high level of ear protection, using a filter in each ear plug to isolate damaging levels of noise.

Flight Plugs

Flight Plugs help to remove the discomfort of pressure changes when flying (also known as ear barotrauma). Using the unique filter system, you can still hear speech from those around you.

For more information about any of these products, please ask a member of our in-store teams.

How to use earplugs

Below are some handy tips to insert and clean your earplugs.

How to put in foam earplugs

  • Make sure your hands are clean before you handle your earplugs.
  • Roll the earplug into a narrow tube.
  • Slightly pull your ear up and out a little bit – this will make it easier to insert them. 
  • Your ear canal will have opened up a bit, so it will be easy to gently insert the earplug, making sure it is well inside your ear, but not too far down that you have to force it.
  • There should still be a small amount sticking out so that you can easily grip it to remove later.

How to insert custom ear plugs

  • Wash your hands.
  • Slightly pull your ear back and up – this will make it easier to insert them.
  • Gently insert the plug into the ear making sure it fits correctly.

How to clean earplugs

  • Regularly removing the build-up of earwax and oil from your earplugs will make sure that they stay flexible and effective.
  • Put your earplugs in warm water with a little soap added.
  • Remove the dirt by gently rubbing them with your fingers or by using a soft cloth.
  • Make sure you’ve washed off all the soap, and leave them to dry on a clean towel.

Which is the best hearing protection?

The best hearing protection is really the one that you’ll use the most. If you’re not exposed to regular extremes of volume such as planes, fireworks or concert venues then a custom or foam plug will probably be the best option to give you sufficient protection, while also being portable and convenient.

How do loud noises affect your hearing?

Your ears are carefully balanced and delicate organs that allow you to hear even the faintest sounds and subtleties in speech and music. This can leave the inner structure of the ear, known as the cochlea, susceptible to irreversible damage. Long-term exposure to work-related noises or one-off extremely loud noises (like an explosion) can damage the cells and nerves of the inner ear, preventing them from properly transmitting sounds to the brain. Noise-induced hearing loss is permanent — you can’t regain hearing that you lose from sounds that are too loud for you.

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1. Ding, Tonghui et al. “What is noise-induced hearing loss?.” British journal of hospital medicine (London, England : 2005) vol. 80,9 (2019): 525-529. doi:10.12968/hmed.2019.80.9.525