Earmuffs vs. Earplugs

How do I know which one to use in my food processing facility? Earmuffs are cost-effective and reusable, but the hygiene excellence of earplugs is unsurpassed. And which should I prioritise – hearing protection or food safety?

The answer to that is both are equally important, but it can be difficult to choose one without compromising the other. 

If you’re looking for a solid, reusable and reliable hearing protection product, earmuffs are the first logical solution. However, these do wear out over time, and the potential build-up of bacteria on these can be a hidden danger and food contamination risk.

The two main options for earmuffs include overhead and behind the ears. These share the same features, although the behind the ear option, is designed to be worn with a safety hat.


  • Worn properly, these have a secure fit and there is low risk of them falling off and into the food.
  • They are very visible, easy to ensure all workers are wearing them
  • Usually feature a very high hearing protection rating.
  • Are highly cost effective as they are reusable.

Earplugs – definitely the more hygienic option. Whether you choose corded or banded earplugs, food safety is at the heart of making this decision. Uncorded options are available, but the risk of them falling into the food production is very high, making them much less preferable. 


  • Highly protective, lightweight and portable.
  • Plugs can be disposed and replaced, while the band is reused – this ensures great hygiene, but the band can become a contamination risk if not cleaned. 


  • The most hygienic and food-safe option on the market, especially if they are metal detectable as well. 
  • Very secure – even if one plug falls out of the ear, it will still remain attached and not fall into the food.
  • Can be handled via the cord, so that the contaminated plugs are not touched. 
  • Can be easily disposed of as soon as they are finished with. 

Hearing protection levels are also important to consider. The highest protection level was once considered the most desirable, however this limited the chance of hearing danger or warning sounds, like a forklift and alarms. Over time, a better balance of safety and protection has evolved with the increase of awareness.

Which hearing protection option is the most appropriate for you will depend on your hygiene and safety requirements balanced against the noise of your machinery. Protecting your workers’ hearing is critical, as the consequence of inadequate protection reach far into the future. 

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