You always hear about experts doling out advice about wearing ear protection whenever spending any amount of time in a noisy environment, but you’d be surprised that you actually really need it even when you’re just mowing the lawn.
In this review, I’m going to tell you about some of the options for the best hearing protection for lawn mowing along with some other tidbits which I hope will let you walk away a little more knowledgeable about the importance of hearing protection devices (HPDs) and their benefits.
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- Best Hearing Protection for Lawn Mowing 2020
- Hearing Protection 101: Why, What, When, How
- Tips For Using Hearing Protection
- Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Hearing Protection
Best Hearing Protection for Lawn Mowing 2020
3M Peltor X2A Ear Muffs
Simple and well-priced, the Peltor X2A by 3M is a utilitarian pair of ear pros that do the job well.
Its chunkiness depends on the level of sound attenuation of your chosen model and has basic features that make it a well-rounded budget-conscious pick. The headbands are a little sparsely cushioned for my tastes but are ventilated nicely to keep the top of your head cool.
The sides of the cups feature a glossy finish to keep from absorbing moisture while the cushions have a soft texture for added comfort. The cups are sized a little too small, though.
- NRR 22-, 24-, 27-, 31-dB options.
- Insulated metal parts.
- Soft finish for added grip.
- Twin headband design ventilates well.
- Replaceable 3M cushions.
- Can be very tight.
Mpow 035 Noise Reduction Safety Ear Muffs
This pair doesn’t cost as much as many other ear muffs in the market but it’s got features in droves. The deep cups house the acoustic insulation nicely, and its padded headband has a ribbed design that allows for both flexibility and ventilation.
The individual cups can be removed easily for cleaning and maintenance. The cups are soft and supple, allowing sound to be shut out with ease. Headband adjustment is similar to audio headphones.
- NRR 28dB.
- Dual-layer noise dampening.
- Soft muff cups.
- ANSI S3.19 & CE EN352-1 certified.
- High-quality ABS construction.
- Comes with carrying bag.
- Suited for adults only.
3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector with Bluetooth
Packed with cool features, 3M’s WorkTunes Connect makes up for its higher cost by doing a lot of other things well.
Right out of the box, you’ll notice the smooth surface designed for easy cleaning since you’ll be touching the cups often with grubby hands.
The design reminds me of aviator ear muffs which is a definite plus in my opinion. Headband cushioning is a little thin for my tastes, but you can adjust it so that the cups take up a bit of the tightness. Another plus is how easy it is to replace the pads.
- NRR 24dB.
- AM/FM radio.
- Ergonomic controls.
- Wired and wireless connectivity.
- Can make hands-free calls.
- The antenna can be cumbersome.
Decibel Defense Professional Safety Ear Muffs
The chunky DD foldable ear muffs take a spot in my lineup because it checks a lot of the boxes when looking for good ear protection. It’s made of durable material with an industrial and utilitarian look to the overall design.
The cushioned headbands make you want to keep them on due to added comfort, but it could start to itch after a while since there is no way to ventilate that part.
All the components of the earmuffs are built together seamlessly. The pivot points and retracting adjustment rods are well built as well.
- Suitable for all ages.
- NRR 34dB.
- Padded headband.
- Multiple color options.
- A little too tight.
- Cushions a little stiff.
Walker’s GWP-RSEM-LTL Electronic Ear Muffs
The Razor includes a lot of tech in such a small package. It uses active noise canceling to attenuate noise. Sound activation triggers at 0.02 seconds for over 89 dB, making it great for anything from shooting sports to prolonged use such as mowing.
The design is simple without making its features go unnoticed. The audio jack is a great option for entertaining yourself with music, podcasts, or audiobooks all while being productive.
- NRR 23dB.
- Ridged volume control for tactile use.
- Dual omnidirectional mics.
- Slim footprint.
- Excellent color options.
- AAA batteries required.
Pro For Sho Ear Protection
With a ton of color options and all the features you need for a functional pair of HPDs, the Pro For Sho muffs are worth considering.
The design eliminates needless bulk while retaining its potential for attenuation. It’s not as slim as electronic ear muffs but is much more compact than typical chunky ones you’ll find in the market.
The sound dampening material is made of High Protection Foam encased in High Impact Polystyrene material for increased durability.
- NRR 34 dB.
- Suitable for everyone.
- Highly adjustable.
- Can take some adjustment to achieve comfort.
3M Pro-Grade Earmuffs
If you’re looking for a professional set of passive ear protection, these are a great choice. You can easily take them apart for cleaning or maintenance. The headbands aren’t cushioned but have vent holes to help with overheating.
The steel frame exerts a lot of pressure inward to help with security, but the cups are a little too small to fit every ear size. I guess you could get away with tucking your ears in if your lobes get caught under the cups.
- NRR 30 dB.
- Durable steel wire headband.
- Replaceable ear cups.
- Lightweight for its size.
- Deep cups.
- Only one color option.
Hearing Protection 101: Why, What, When, How
Why Should You Protect Your Hearing?
Hearing Degrades but Does Not Regenerate
Like many functions of the body, hearing is a process that involves an interplay of different parts (in this case, the ear).
In a nutshell, the outer ear catches sound waves and directs them to the ear canal which stimulates a number of sensory components within the inner ear. The inner ear then sends sensory signals to the brain to interpret the waves as recognizable sounds.
If a link in this interconnected process is damaged, your hearing will suffer drastically, and sadly, there is no effective way to reverse any damage that causes hearing loss.
It’s Easy to Damage Ears
One of the most sensitive links in this chain is the inner ear, which contains hairs in the cochlea that respond to the sound waves channeled by the eardrum. Damage to these cells is irreversible and hence, hearing loss becomes permanent.
Tinnitus is a symptom of age-related hearing loss as well as a result of exposure to loud noises. It’s what causes a lingering ringing or other phantom sounds when you hear a sudden noise or are exposed to loud noises for a certain length of time.
You’ll know that you need ear protection whenever you walk away from a job with tinnitus in which case, you should take action before permanent damage is done to your ears.
It’s an Investment
The price of even the most expensive piece of hearing protection is nothing compared to a lifetime of suffering. It also helps that earplugs, earmuffs, and even helmets are available at affordable prices and are manufactured worldwide.
You’ll get your pick of the best brands like the ones I’ve outlined previously in the review section.
When Should You Protect Your Hearing?
It’s useful to look at some of the factors affecting hearing loss to get a broad idea of what to look out for. Generally, you’ll want to check the decibel level of the noise that your lawnmower emits at ear level when you’re standing behind it.
Then, look at the length of time you spend mowing your lawn. This can be important since lawn mowing hilly areas can take longer.
Note that at louder noise levels, not wearing ear protection even for a little bit will already expose you to high risks of hearing damage. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is highly preventable as long as you have the right equipment at hand.
While the purpose of this article is to protect your ears against loud lawnmowers, you should still protect your hearing when doing some jobs like construction work and the like.
You may already know what’s required if you’re in the construction industry since there are well-established guidelines already published by OSHA.
Wearing protection is a must If you’re into any type of shooting sport. According to an article from the ASHA, almost all firearms can emit noise greater than 140 dB and can result in permanent hearing damage. If conditions are right, a person can even suffer hearing loss from only a single gunshot.
Wearing ear protection is also a good idea when going to certain events in stadiums and racetracks.
Power tools are loud. If you’re into any type of DIY construction, you probably have a saw of some sort, which are loud when the blade is spinning on its own and even louder when it starts cutting into material.
How to Choose Hearing Protection
Experts advise that you wear some type of hearing protection whenever your workplace noise level exceeds 85 dBA at any given time.
The unit for measuring sound is the decibel (dB), but because humans perceive sound differently, a unit called A-weighted decibels (dBA) is used to describe sound based on what is actually heard by the human ear.
Sound levels lower than 70 dBA are considered safe. Do keep in mind that the decibel does not scale linearly, meaning that 110 dBA is 10 times more intense than 85 dBA.
Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) Values
You’ll often see this value printed on the box of your earplugs or earmuffs. NRR is a unit that determines the effectiveness of hearing protection in decreasing sound exposure in a given environment. Basically, the higher the NRR value, the greater potential for reducing noise exposure.
To determine the actual value of noise reduction, you take the NRR value of your device, subtract 7 from it, and then divide by 2. Sound exposure is reduced by the resulting number.
Comfort is one of the biggest factors in choosing a hearing protection device because you’ll bring out its full potential if you like to wear it. This is more of a preference thing and varies from person to person.
It’s why many workplaces allow workers to try out and decide which type of ear protection they will wear to get the best outcome.
The suitability of the hearing protector for the job environment is also another factor.
Say you’re mowing the lawn in a busy neighborhood and you only have earplugs on. People may assume that you can hear them and keep calling to you about a concern or emergency. You’ll miss out on important information or a few crucial seconds because they didn’t see the earplugs in your ears.
In this situation, it could be more suitable to wear earmuffs so that people in your surroundings are aware that you will not be able to hear them and as a result, they’ll find other ways to catch your attention.
Parts of a Hearing Protector
The shell is the component that houses the material that provides hearing protection. In general, the deeper the shell is, the greater the attenuation (reduction) of the sound signal. Inside the shell should be an arrangement of sound dampening foam and other material to eliminate any sound waves coming into your ears.
Headbands are the parts that keep the ear cups secure against the side of your head. Out of the box, they’ll be extremely tight since they are made out of strong metal rods formed in a way that will put pressure inward against your head. They are made to be height adjustable to achieve the best fit possible across various head sizes and shapes.
The cups are attached to the shell of each earmuff and are made of sound-deadening material like foam or rubber. They are typically made with a rubber or leather lining to keep moisture out of the foam material and to maintain comfort. They cover the entire pinna of the ears to provide a comprehensive seal, preventing sound from leaking into the ears.
The earplug body is made of a soft but dense foam material that blocks out sound waves through passive noise canceling. They are long and missile-shaped, tapering from the base to provide enough of a surface for you to grip as you pull it out or put it in. They are the only components in an earplug that provide sound attenuation.
Some earplugs feature a lead or string that attaches to both earplugs. These are designed so that you can take off your earplugs without the risk of losing them when you put them down someplace else. The strings are typically made of cotton so they are lightweight.
Hearing Protection Maintenance
Wear and Tear
Inspect your earmuffs or earplugs for any damage caused by normal usage. When you see any signs of ripping or tearing on the HPD, act proactively, and replace it to maintain proper noise attenuation.
Disassemble to Clean
Follow the assembly instructions in reverse so that you can gain access to every nook of your HPD. Wipe away all visible dirt and debris in preparation for washing.
In a solution of mild soap and water, dip your earmuff cups and foam. Do not wash the headband and steel frame if the manufacturer does not rate it as washable.
Hang in a dry place away from direct sunlight for a few hours. Inspect the foam for any residual moisture before reassembling.
Use a clean damp microfiber cloth with rubbing alcohol to wipe away any visible oil stains after use. This will help prevent bacteria and any nasty oil buildup.
Tips For Using Hearing Protection
Use It the Whole Time
Hearing protection is only effective if you wear it for the entire period you are exposed to a noisy environment.
In the case of lawn mowing, you should always have protection on securely whenever the engine is turned on. When you wish to have a conversation or if you want to take off your hearing protection for a time, turn off the engine first before taking off your earmuffs or earplugs.
Even a few seconds of exposure to high decibel noise will already cause damage to your hearing.
Choose One That is Comfortable
Since you’re going to wear it a lot, you’re better off choosing something that you find comfortable wearing for a long period.
For earplugs, there’s not much to say other than get custom or moldable earplugs if you think you want them. Earmuffs need a little more consideration because of the different components that affect comfort.
The cups can also present some comfort issues. Rubber cups can be too firm or heavy for you, so inspect the weight specifications in the product description before pulling the trigger. It helps to have a pair of headphones that you like so you can use it as a base for forming your opinion on whether the earmuffs will be comfortable.
The best-case scenario when you already got your earmuffs but don’t like them is to simply return the product.
It can be a real pain having to keep removing your earmuffs whenever you need to hear something important. Thankfully, there are a number of products that feature an in-built microphone and speaker systems much like what you’d see in a pair of active noise-canceling headphones.
At the flip of a switch, it’ll turn off noise canceling and the muffs will pick up sound through the microphones and play it in real-time through the drivers in the cups.
Look Up Videos on Best Practices
I completely understand people who are more comfortable with audio-visual learning, so don’t stop at the instructions only. Check online for videos of best practices for wearing the various types of hearing protection to gain a better idea of what to purchase or how to use the hearing protector you had already bought.
Here’s a helpful snippet of a segment from KOAA 5 which covers a lot of the basics when it comes to hearing protection:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Hearing Protection
- Easily available. A lot of brands are available in the market with many designs to help you make a personalized choice.
- Can be individually molded to fit your ear. Some brands allow you to customize the shape of the earplugs. They come in the form of a silicone putty that you can push against your ear to mold it precisely.
- Reusable or disposable. You can choose between reusable silicone earplugs or disposable foam variants. The second type can be reused a few times before you need to throw them out.
- Less expensive. Since they’re so small and are of a basic design, earplugs cost way less than earmuffs. This low cost makes them easy to manufacture and often come in disposable types.
- Weaker noise protection than some ear muffs. Earplugs achieve passive noise reduction by plugging in the passages of your ear canal. This means that only the foam is providing sound attenuation, so there may be some inefficiencies in the overall sound-deadening effect.
- Not suitable for environments over 105 dBA. Sound can still be picked up by the outer ear when using earplugs. This means that you’ll need more than just earplugs for higher decibel environments.
- Not as visible as large earmuffs. People won’t be able to know that you can’t hear them. This can pose potential problems especially if you’re working the lawn with a team or another person.
- Need for proper hygiene practices. Earplugs go into your ear canal, so they tend to push any debris or earwax further down into the canal. While workplaces often prescribe rules on these types of things, you’ll have to stay on top of your own hygiene practices so that wearing earplugs will not adversely affect your health.
- Models and brands can vary greatly in dome depth and material. This means that you can budget your expense exactly according to what you need to protect you against the noise made by your mower. You won’t really need aeronautics-grade earmuffs but it’s nice that the option is there.
- High adjustability. Commercially-available earmuffs can fit a number of head types, shapes, and sizes thanks to the adjustable design. That said, you need to make sure that the cups securely surround your entire ear before adjusting the headband for effective sound attenuation.
- Deeper and heavier domes provide increased low-frequency attenuation. This gives you more comprehensive protection against intense noises along a large part of the spectrum.
- Costs more. Compared to a basic pair of earplugs, you’re looking to spend orders of magnitude more on a pair of earmuffs, but they win out because many models are washable. Earmuffs are better for the environment overall and some manufacturers sell replacement cups.
- Less comfortable than earplugs. This is true especially when the sun is burning bright. Because of their design, you can’t wear earmuffs with a wide-brim hat. You can still wear a cap under the muffs but moisture and heat buildup may still be an issue.
Should you wear ear protection while mowing?
Yes. Prevention beats a cure, but in this case, there is no cure for NIHL. Your best bet is to always wear some type of HPD when mowing due to the risk of hearing loss involved.
At what decibel should hearing protection be worn?
At 85 dBA.
How loud is a lawnmower in dB?
On average, lawnmowers produce 90 dB of noise or 107 dBA.
But you should check the precise noise level for your lawnmower.
If you’re in the market for a new one, we recommend reading our many articles on lawnmowers. We have everything from powerful lawn mowers for small yards to awesome riding lawn mowers for rough terrain, but you’ll also find very specific types of lawnmowers such as electric start self-propelled lawnmowers. And much more!
Which hearing protection is best?
It depends on your preference. The best is always the one you’re comfortable with and will wear properly all the time.
How much noise does hearing protection reduce?
Different models will have different attenuation levels. Inspect the product specification sheets for accurate information on each product.
From a practicality and cost-efficiency standpoint, I’m pretty sure the Peltors will keep your hearing in good condition as you continue to work your lawn over the years.
If you’re landscaping as a business venture, stick with pro-grade muffs for a sure way of getting the sound attenuation you need. Getting any of these products will do you good since power mowers are just at the lower end of the danger zone in the noise spectrum, meaning that even the lowest NRR ones will already be enough for lawn mower use.
So at this point, it’s essentially a choice between having more features as opposed to basic barebones passive noise canceling.
Happy and safe mowing!