The right ear protection will protect your ears when you are working with loud tools whether you are at work or at home. We explain what you should consider when selecting and using ear protection.
Whether it’s leaf blowers, chainsaws or hedge trimmers, working with power tools can be loud. Our ears are sensitive and should not be exposed to excessively loud noises. However, those working in the garden or in the forest cannot always avoid noisy conditions.
In order to protect your hearing from excessive and prolonged noise and to prevent future hearing damage, you should wear ear protection when using any noisy tools.
But not all noise is the same. In addition to the strength of the sound, the distance from the source of the noise is also important. For example, the question of whether an engine is directly next to the ear while working – as with hedge trimmers – or whether it is more than one metre away, as with lawn mowers, makes a difference. So it is important to know how much noise the ear is directly exposed to when choosing the right hearing protection.
The operating instructions for our garden and work tools include two values: the sound power level represents the direct volume produced on the device itself, while the sound pressure level specifies the value that actually reaches the user. Both values are expressed in decibels (dB).
There are two basic forms: Ear plugs and ear defenders. Both types offer identical protection – there are no fundamental differences in noise protection, and they are both available in various designs for different purposes. They can also be combined with other personal protective equipment (PPE) components such as helmets or visors.
The best type of ear protection – ear plugs or ear defenders – is entirely up to you. In general, you should choose the type of hearing protection you feel most comfortable with.
Ear protection ear plugs are often used in factories and production halls where they must be worn for longer periods. The advantage of ear plugs is that many people find them more comfortable to wear in such an environment because the ears do not sweat and the hearing protection does not have to be removed and put back on multiple times.
Ear plugs are usually made of conically shaped PU foam and can be inserted easily into the ear canal. Thanks to their deep seat within the ear, they offer good sound protection. As they are not worn on the outside of the head, earplugs are also usually more comfortable than ear defenders if you wear glasses too.
Special designs include ear plugs with connecting straps or bands, or earmoulds which are individually adapted to the wearer’s ear canal.
Ear defenders look like thick headphones. The ear defenders are usually attached to a headband or mounted on a helmet. The sound protection principle is the same as for ear plugs. They can simply be folded up or removed during work breaks.
Ear defenders are suitable for all types of work, both indoors and outdoors. They can also be used in all types of weather. In cold temperatures, this form of hearing protection also offers the advantage of keeping the ears warm as you work.
In general, the use of ear defenders is recommended if you have to often put on and take off your ear protection or if you work in dirty environments. Ear defenders are more hygienic to use than ear plugs if you have resin on your hands, for example if working in a forest.
Ear protection headphones with radio or Bluetooth® is a further development of the traditional defenders. Models such as our STIHL ear defenders with Bluetooth® (BT) – Dynamic BT allow users to communicate with colleagues easily by connecting a smartphone to them. You can also listen to music or the radio with these ear defenders.
If you are exposed to extremely loud levels of noise, you can also wear ear plugs and ear defenders at the same time. This allows you to achieve greater noise protection. However, please note that the individual protection values cannot simply be added together. You should only use combinations that are approved by accredited testing institutes.
STIHL offers a range of ear protection products, such as ear defenders or ear plugs, to protect your hearing during work or at home.
For professional activities, there are concrete specifications as to the noise levels at which employees require hearing protection. Whether in forestry, on a construction site or in urban areas, ear protection is required when decibel levels reach certain values. You should refer to the guidance provided by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for advice. There is also a useful noise calculator on the HSE website, which can help you work out what level of ear protection you need.
Private work such as garden maintenance or cutting firewood in the forest can also be noisy. Some petrol chainsaws, petrol brushcutters and petrol hedge trimmers can produce noise levels over 100 dB, which is comparable to a rock concert. Electric models can reach levels of 85 to 100 dB, which is roughly as loud as a major road.
The individual noise level of the tool you are using is crucial. You can find the sound pressure level in the operating instructions for all STIHL power tools – this level will determine whether you need to use ear protection when operating the device. The values are given for typical use of each tool. Please consult the instruction manual before starting work and make sure you have the right ear protection.
Check the operating instructions for your STIHL power tool: this specifies the noise level at which the STIHL tool operates.
Consider how long you will use the tool for.
Choose the right ear protection from our range. The SNR value can also be found in most of the product names for our ear protectors and provides a rough guide. For example, The STIHL Concept 23 hearing protection reduces noise by a weighted average of around 23 decibels.
For an accurate determination, you can also use the HML value, which determines the noise reduction at High, Medium and Low frequencies. You can find out more about this on the HSE website.
When choosing between ear defenders and ear plugs, your personal preference is the most important determining factor, as the protection is equally good for both types. If you wear ear protection over a longer period of time, ear plugs are usually more suitable. If you need to put on and take off your ear protection frequently, ear defenders are more likely to be the best choice.
For some types of work, a combination of face and ear protection may be useful. Both types of ear protection can also be used equally well in these cases. Many of our helmets and face shields come with ear protectors attached.
STIHL tip: Finding the right STIHL ear protection is easy. All models with the suffix “Concept” have a band, on variants with an additional “F”, this band can be folded. Models with “BT” in the name feature Bluetooth® connectivity.
To make sure that your ear protection will protect you in the long term, you should look after it and treat it correctly.
Remove any accumulated dust and liquids after working and make sure that the ear protection can dry out properly.
If ear defenders are used frequently, the hygiene sets – consisting of sealing rings and foam pads – should be replaced regularly. Deformations, cracks, fractures or deformed bands are all signs that you need to replace your ear protection.
You should store your ear protection in a clean, dry environment that is not too warm and is protected from direct sunlight.