How Can I Test My Hearing Protection?
Loud noise can permanently damage your hearing. It especially affects the sounds that help you understand speech.
Earmuffs, earplugs, and other hearing protection devices can reduce your risk of hearing loss, but only if you get a good fit and wear them properly.
Follow the instructions below to perform a quick test of whether you are getting at least a minimal 15 decibel (dB) level of protection.
Hearing Protection Quick Test
- For best results, conduct this test in a quiet room (background noises can interfere with the test sounds). You can listen through speakers or headphones connected to your computer. Speakers will work with either earmuffs or earplugs. Headphones can be used with earplugs and should be the full-sized "circumaural" type that covers the entire ear and does not press on the inserted earplug.
- Play Track 1 and adjust the volume so the sound is barely audible.
- Put on your hearing protection. If using soft foam earplugs, we recommend the NIOSH Roll-Pull-Hold method.
- Play Track 2 and listen for the test sound.
- You should not be able to hear the test sound if your hearing protection is fitted properly. If you can hear Track 2, re-fit your hearing protection and repeat Step 4.
How it Works
The test sounds are bands of random noise with a center frequency of 1000 Hz. This is the same type of sound used in standard hearing protector ratings including the "American National Standard Methods for Measuring the Real-Ear Attenuation of Hearing Protectors" (ANSI S12.6). Both tracks are the same, but the second track is 15 decibels (dB) louder than the first. Most hearing protectors will block or "attenuate" sound by more than 15 dB if they are the right size and shape to fit your ears and are worn correctly. A sound that is barely audible at your threshold of hearing without hearing protection should be inaudible though hearing protection even if it's boosted by 15 dB.
You can also download the test sounds to check your hearing protection offline with an MP3 player or computer multimedia player. Download these two tracks:
Track 1: Without Hearing Protection
Track 2: With Hearing Protection
(To download the files, right-click the link and choose "Save File As..." or similar selection from the menu.)
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- Page last reviewed: 4/10/2014
- Page last updated: 12/3/2012
- Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Mining Program