Hearing loss is one of the most preventable leading occupational injuries in the workplace. A “one size fits all” approach simply does not work. Ear canal sizes vary widely across gender and populations. Females typically have an ear canal which is 20% smaller than males, and those of Asians and Africans have significantly smaller ear canals than Caucasians as a population.  Offering choices to employees will help increase the success of your hearing protection program.

Not only do employees need choices for their hearing protection, they need to be taught the proper way to wear their earplugs. If you see most of the earplug sticking out of your employees ears, they have either the wrong size earplug or they have not inserted it properly. For best results, training should be on a one-on-one basis.

The following steps for foam earplugs are recommended by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH):

Steps for inserting re-useable pre-molded earplugs:

1.Expand the ear canal as in step 2 of NIOSH instructions shown above.

2. Once the ear drum is expanded, insert the earplug using a gentle rocking motion until it is slowly inserted into the ear canal. Keep going until the ear canal is sealed off.

3. If you can still hear well with the earplug in place, you may have been inserted incorrectly. If the earplug does not work after a second attempt, you may need a different size plug.

If employees are not trained on how to insert their earplugs properly and are not given choices in sizes and shapes of earplugs, they may not be adequately protecting their hearing.  Providing an array of earplug choices in size and shape cost a minimal amount of money. Training is fairly quick and can be done in small groups, but is best one-on-one.