ALERT Learn More | NASP Certification Program: The Path to Success Has Many Routes. Choose Yours


Last updated: October 28, 2019

What Does Earplugs Mean?

Ear plugs are a device inserted into the ear to prevent loud noise or the intrusion of water, foreign bodies, dust, cold and strong wind from entering the ear. They are primarily used to prevent hearing damage caused by loud noises encountered with power tools or heavy machinery in a work environment. Most earplug designs are disposable and are made of foam material that is designed to mold to the shape of the ear.

Safeopedia Explains Earplugs

Long term or repeated exposure to loud noises can cause trauma to the inner ear. This can result in loss of hearing, ringing in the ears, vertigo and other non-auditory effects, such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. For this reason, The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) provides regulations and standards for personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect the inner ear.

There are different kinds of ear protection. It is important to conform to ANSI regulations when choosing safety equipment. These should have the appropriate noise reduction rating for the environment they are to be used in.

  • Foam Types: Foam plugs mold to fit the shape of the ear and should only be used once and discarded for hygienic reasons. Made of memory foam, these are compressed and inserted into the ear canal, and then expand when released. These are normally used by workers in noisy areas.
  • Silicone Types: Made of silicone and rubber. The inner side looks like a small ball that fits into the outer ear canal, while the rest fits around the top of the ear to secure it in place. This type is used by swimmers and surfers. These are generally reusable earplugs that can be washed.
  • Flanged Types: Made of rubber or plastic. They are inserted into the ear, but a harder inner core section protrudes from the ear. These are normally used by musicians.
  • Over the Ear Types: "Ear muffs" are another variety of ear protection that covers the entire ear and can be used in conjunction with in the ear types for maximum hearing protection.

Share this Term

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter

Related Reading


PPESafety EquipmentEHS Programs

Trending Articles

Go back to top