Yard work and gardening are peaceful, quiet activities. Most of the time, at least!. But lawnmowers, trimmers, snowblowers, and leaf blowers make lots of noise. And that noise can be enough to damage your hearing.
You might think it’s not a big deal. After all, cutting the grass doesn’t match going to a rock concert. But your ears can still suffer severe damage from these sounds. Fortunately, a little protection goes a long way.
Why Use Hearing Protection During Yard Work?
As you know, noise is measured in decibels, abbreviated dB. The higher the number, the louder the sound.
A conversation is about 60 dB. The rustle of leaves is about 30 decibels.
Above 80 decibels, you have to start worrying about permanent damage to your ears. Sustained noise at that level – even though it might not seem like much – is already harmful. That’s about as loud as a hairdryer! Heavy, noisy traffic checks in around 90 dB.
Here’s a sample of the dB levels of some common yard tools. Of course, the numbers drop the further away you get. But if you’re using the tools or will be close by, you should take steps to protect your ears.
- Lawn mower: 90 dB
- Leaf blower: 95 to 115 dB
- Snowblower: 90 dB
- Chainsaw: 110 dB
- String trimmer: 95 dB
- Electric hedge trimmers: 95 – 103 dB
As you can see, all of these tools far surpass the safe level. That’s why we strongly encourage using ear muffs or earplugs while using them (or any other loud tools).
How Ear Protection Is Rated
Your primary goal with hearing protection is to diminish the noise level to a safe level. An easy-to-understand system measures earmuff and earplug effectiveness.
The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) tells you exactly what it says. An NRR of 30 means that those earplugs or earmuffs reduce the surrounding noise by 30 dB. An NRR of 15 means the level is lowered by 15 dB.
For example, you’re running a chainsaw that’s producing 110 dB of noise. But you wear earmuffs with an NRR 31. The decibel level affecting you is 79 dB (110 – 31 = 79). That puts you in a good range – it’s borderline high but relatively safe.
In short, the higher the NRR, the better. Here, we aren’t looking at noise-canceling headphones; we simply want to get the noise to a safe level.
For most yard work, a rating of around 30 is ideal. For the tools you’ll be using, that will bring their output down into the 60-85 dB range.
Other Key Factors To Consider
Don’t substitute any other factor for the NRR – the rating measures the whole purpose of this investment!
But there are a couple of factors you can look at.
Comfort is surprisingly important because in this case, it’s a sign that your hearing protection fits right. And if it fits right, it can work right. Most earmuffs are adjustable and will fit almost anyone, but if you have a very large head, you might want to check your options carefully.
Earmuffs are more elaborate but not always more effective. Earplugs get the job done just as well.
Earplugs are disposable. They’re also about as uncomplicated as you can get. That’s why you’ll see bags of 50, 100, or even 200 pairs!
Earmuffs will serve you time after time. They also allow for some extra features that can help you better pass the time! With earmuffs, you’ll want to look for ones that are adjustable so that you can customize the fit.
And for pure entertainment, you’ll even find earmuffs that can play music! Some have a radio receiver. Even better models can connect to your phone via Bluetooth so that you can listen to music or whatever else you may like!
If you’re a hunter or sport shooter, you’ll be able to use the same gear. Some of our recommendations for yard work are marketed for the shooting range! We think they do fantastic double duty, though.
Our Reviews Of The Best Noise-Cancelling Earmuffs
Have you decided to buy earmuffs? They make a fantastic investment! Here are our recommendations.
- NRR: 24dB
- Special Features: Bluetooth; wide variety of colors (trim only); children’s sizes
Rock out while mowing the lawn with these awesome ear muffs from 3M! They do a great job protecting your hearing from most lawn care-related noises. With an NRR of 24 dB, they’re sufficient for most activities.
At the link above, you’ll find options for several colors. Note that the color selection only refers to the small band around the earpiece, though. The body is always black. There are also sizes for younger children.
They are built solidly and will hold up for a long time under normal conditions.
Besides the noise reduction, these have an awesome Bluetooth connection. You’ll be able to listen to music — and the rechargeable battery can last up to a few days! The speakers are high-quality, too, so you can enjoy the listening experience.
There’s even a microphone for use with your phone. It comes in handy in an emergency, although the quality isn’t outstanding. It has that “distant” sound to it.
The NRR is good, as we mentioned above. However, it’s a little weak for louder tools like chainsaws or leaf blowers. If you’ll be using that type of power tool, you might want to look for something with a little more protection. But they’re perfect for most uses!
- NRR: 28 dB
- Special Features: choice of red or yellow padding
ProCase offers these fantastic ear muffs. What they lack in special features, they make up for in comfort!
The earpads are soft yet durable. The imitation leather feels good against the area, although it can feel a bit sticky in hot weather. Both the earpieces and the headband are adjustable., at least nominally.
If you have a large head, these might not be for you, though. Yes, they adjust. But they don’t offer a wide range of adjustments. However, if your head is “normal-sized” or smaller – or you want these for children – they’ll work great.
They are also lightweight, at only 9 ounces. You’ll almost forget you have them on!
You’ll be safe from 28 dB of noise with these. That can bring down your risk substantially! ProCase offers even higher NRR’s, but we found these to be the best value while still offering a quality product.
- NRR: 33 dB
- Special Features: Adjustable; includes safety glasses, earplugs, and bag
As the product name says, this set of ear and eye equipment is marketed for shooters. But it’s great for yard work, too!
The earmuffs come with pink or yellow accents, and earplugs to match. The glasses don’t fog up too badly so you can see what you’re doing without concern.
Most adults and older and older children should be able to wear these earmuffs comfortably.
Of course, the NRR is the most important factor, and these check in with an impressive 33 rating! That makes them a superb choice for almost any work you may be doing in your yard.
The “extras” included here are useful, too. There may be times you’d prefer to use earplugs instead of earmuffs. Or you might feel that you want the extra protection of using them together.
The simpler kit includes clear glasses. The more expensive one has both clear and tinted glasses. They provide a reasonable amount of safety, fit comfortably on the nose, and are scratch-resistant. They serve well for activities like mowing where you run the risk of flying dust kicking up toward your face.
The size is, as with many earmuffs, the main complaint. While most buyers seem to find them adequate, we’ve still seen complaints that they were more geared for children and weren’t adjustable enough. For us, Tom is very big and nothing fits his head. Marta found them comfortable, though.
- NRR: 30 dB
- Special Features: Vented headband
Here’s another great set of earmuffs with a high NRR. Peltor’s product reduces 30 dB, making it competitive as one of the most effective sets around.
These are somewhat adjustable, but it’s mainly through the flexibility of the headband. As always, the larger your head, the more uncomfortable they will feel. We haven’t found a good solution for this, sadly.
On an average-sized head, though, they fit comfortably and the padding over the ear is comfortable.
The top of the headband is open – that is, there is an oval-shaped opening with the band running on either side. This can make it fit a bit better. We imagine, though, that if you’re bald, you could end up with an interesting tan line!
Overall, they do a great job protecting your hearing, they fit most people fine, and they’ll hold up over time.
- NRR: 35 dB (39 dB if you use the included earplugs also)
- Special Features: Kit includes earplugs and safety glasses in an easy-to-carry case}
This is another kit that offers hearing and sight protection. Designed for the shooting range, it also serves well in the garden!
Earmuffs, protective glasses, and earplugs are all included. There’s even a small pouch for the earplugs. And all of the items fit nicely inside a handy carrying case.
These earmuffs have the highest NRR on our list. They reduce 35 decibels! Coupled with the earplugs, there’s a 39 dB reduction. That’s enough to protect you against almost any tool sounds you’d encounter in the garden.
The earmuffs have a flexible band. The earpieces themselves also pivot on their wire hangers, providing more opportunity for adjustment.
These are available in a variety of colors for any taste, too!
Overall, we found them comfortable to wear and they did a great job lowering the volume. We even noticed a slight improvement when adding the earplugs.
The glasses are not heavy-duty eye protection. But they do the job against flying dust and grass clippings just fine!
The Best Earplugs
You won’t miss out on any protection if you buy earplugs instead. Take a look at the best ones on the market. They’re pretty simple, so we won’t have a lot to say about each one. But these are the best we’ve found!
- NRR: 32 dB
This pack of 6 pairs of earplugs does a great job reducing noise! They reduce about 32 dB of noise.
Unlike many earplugs, these are reusable. You can wash them, let them dry, then put them in your ear again.
They are soft and reasonably comfortable when inserted.
- NRR: 30 dB
With a 30 dB noise reduction rating, these earplugs from Honeywell do a great job.
This is a pack of 200 pairs of disposable plugs.
Rather than being a simple tube shape, these are more like a “T.” It does make it slightly easier to grasp them.
Two hundred pairs is a lot, and these are marketed mainly for factories. However, if you do a lot of yard work and have the family helping while doing it, it could be worth it. The price isn’t bad, considering how long a box will last.
Packs of 2 pairs or 3 pairs are available, but we felt they wouldn’t last long enough. You’ll eventually need the 200!
- NRR: 29 dB
These are the softest earplugs we’ve seen. 3M provides a good product here with a relatively high NRR – sufficient for most home uses.
These are disposable, and the box of 200 pairs will last you quite a while.
The company claims these start hard to make them easier to insert, but then “soften up” once they’re in place. We noticed a slight difference – we think. Overall, though, they weren’t too uncomfortable.
Protect your hearing so that you’ll be able to sit around the fire pit chatting with the kids and grandkids well into your old age! Earmuffs and earplugs are both great alternatives. Consider them a necessity – not an option – when running heavy electric or gas-powered tools in the yards. They’re a fantastic way to protect your hearing.