Hearing Protection Guide

Hearing PPE – is the least effective control in the hierarchy of controls because it:

- does not stop hazardous noise at the source or in its pathway like the higher level controls
- relies on worker compliance and behaviour, and
- requires a lot of supervision

PPE should only be used to manage any risk that is leftover after you have implemented higher-level controls.Common types of hearing PPE are:

- earmuffs
- earplugs (disposable or individually moulded)
- ear canal caps or semi-inserts

All hearing PPE should comply with relevant Australian Standards

All hearing PPE should be:

-  tested and approved in accordance with Australian Standard AS/NZS 1270:2002: Acoustics – Hearing protectors. Test results are found on the packaging of the hearing protector
- selected and maintained in accordance with AS/NZS 1269.3:2005 Occupational noise management – hearing protector program

Suppliers of hearing protectors should provide the full information on the attenuation likely to be provided including the SLC80 ratings, class and octave band attenuation values derived from attenuation measurements made in accordance with AS/NZS 1270:2002 Acoustics – hearing protectors.

There are two approved methods for testing hearing PPEin Australia, with results stated as: Class or SLC80

The recommended in-ear noise level under the protector is 80dB(A).

There are two approved methods for testing hearing PPE in Australia, with the results stated as Class or SLC80.

The class of hearing protection is determined by a testing regime prescribed by AS/NZS 1270:2002 Acoustics – Hearing protectors and is marked on the packaging of the device.

AS/NZS 1269.3:2005 Occupational noise management – Hearing protector program recommends the class testing method is used in most circumstances

To identify what class of hearing protection, you only need the 8-hour average value to which the worker is exposed in dB(A).and then refer to Table 4 in the Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work Code of Practice, which details the five classes of hearing PPE:

Measured exposure dB(A)Class
Less than 901
90 to less than 952
95 to less than 1003
100 to less than 1054
105 to less than 1105

For information on the SLC80 (Sound Level Conversion valid for 80% of the wearers) measuring method, refer to the Managing noise and preventing hearing loss at work Code of Practice.

Suppliers of hearing protectors should provide the full information on the attenuation likely to be provided including the SLC80 ratings, class and octave band attenuation values. The attenuation values should be derived from attenuation measurements made in accordance with AS/NZS 1270 Acoustics – hearing protectors.

Providing or using hearing PPE measured by the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) system is not acceptable in Australia. The NRR system is used in the USA but can’t be used in Australia because the method of testing is different from that required by AS/NZS 1270:2001.

The effectiveness of hearing PPE is reliant on a number of factors

The effectiveness of hearing PPE is reliant on:

- its conditon
- whether it fits the operator correctly
 -the suitability of the hearing protectors for both the worker and the environment (eg: ear-plugs are difficult to use hygienically for work that requires them to be inserted with dirty hands and in these circumstances, ear-muffs are more appropriate however ear-muffs can be uncomfortable to wear in hot environments and can make it difficult for the wearer to enter a confined space or to wear a helmet)
- the PPEs compatibility with other equipment used by the worker, eg: spectacles; eye protection; hard hats; respirators; etc

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