It’s important to protect your ears from the long-term effects of loud noises that surround you on a jobsite or in your workshop. Years ago, your choices for noise protection were basically just foam ear plugs or wired headphones. Today, Bluetooth capabilities mean you can get hearing protection while still enjoying access to content on your phone. This article provides an overview of the two main types of hearing protection available and why you might choose each.

Noise Reduction

Noise reduction, isolation, and suppression all usually refer to the same type of hearing protection—anything that goes in or over your ear that reduces the amount of sound that can get into your ear. There’s no complicated technology that makes these work, but they will only be effective if they create a secure seal in or around your ear. Many people opt for Bluetooth headphones since they offer noise reduction and allow you to listen to content on your phone.

Wired Bluetooth earbuds: These are connected to each other with a wire and often have a piece that goes around your ear to keep them from falling out. One advantage is that it’s easier to take one earbud out to join in a conversation or show another person that you’re listening to. Some people find the wire irritating and would rather be without it.
Wireless Bluetooth earbuds: As the name suggests, these don’t have any wire between the two earbuds. Some models come with a case that charges the earbuds, which can extend the total charge life for upwards of 20 hours. Since they are small and have no wire, it’s easier to lose one or both.
Bluetooth ear muffs: Some people find that after a few hours of use, earbuds hurt their ears. Earmuffs usually don’t cause this problem. And one upside of their larger size is that no one will overlook that you’re wearing them and try to start a conversation while you’re in another zone entirely.
While you should never sacrifice safety to listen to music, it is possible to find comfortable and convenient hearing protection that will also allow you to enjoy your music while still protecting your ears. If you need more deliberate hearing protection, though, noise-canceling technology offers greater protection than noise reduction alone.

Noise Cancelling

Devices with active noise canceling (ANC) capabilities do more than simply block and muffle sounds; they literally counteract the soundwaves so they don’t enter your ears. Tiny microphones on the outside of these devices detect noises and then emit a new sound wave that counteracts the incoming one. These headphones won’t completely eliminate all sounds, but they do significantly reduce it (especially low-frequency sounds like many of those you’d find on a jobsite). Most often, these headphones often come with Bluetooth capabilities, so you can still be connected to your phone while enjoying the greatest level of hearing protection possible.

How the technology actually creates the new soundwave is very complicated, and some companies do it more effectively than others. For that reason, you’ll want to test out a headset before you buy if at all possible. If you can’t, ask for recommendations and read lots of reviews. Two sets of headphones with the same specs may not perform the same. Note that a noise reduction rating (NRR) can be found on any type of headphones and simply refers to how much sound they will block out; it does not mean headphones use ANC technology.

By taking advantage of the latest technology, you can enjoy your music, stay connected to your incoming calls, and still protect your ears for years to come. We love to hear from you. What is your favorite type of hearing protection to wear on the job? Let us know in the comments!

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