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The Best Ear Protection For Firefighters, According To A Pro

Looking for ear plugs for firefighters?

The risks associated with noise exposure are well-documented, but there are also many factors at work. Some are unavoidable while some are avoidable. When it comes to firefighter earplugs, this can make a big difference.

Firefighters are exposed to dangerous things on the job every day. It’s important to protect their hearing by wearing ear plugs. But that’s not always an easy task. And some earplugs are better than others.

Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to protect your ears.

Things to know about firefighting earplugs

Something hazardous can be seen in the fire and rescue scenarios that we sometimes consider but ignore. While it may not make up an imminent risk, it can have a detrimental effect on wellbeing. Yet this threat is something that firefighters seldom mind.

While grappling with the apparent hazards of flame, fire, poisonous smoke, dropping, etc., others do not appear to notice the effect of the one threat they add to the scene—noise.

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safety hearing aid

Purchasing a protective listening aid for your staff can be one of the most critical safety choices you make.

In the smoky, difficult-to-see areas where fire rages all over, contact with the construction team and others on the ground is crucial, and getting a communication headset that allows the company's maximum situational awareness is an essential aspect.

So what are the other critical considerations in finding a safety hearing aid for your team? Check out these vital considerations to remember before selecting your next hearing protection device.

Factors to Help you Choose Hearing Protection Devices for Firefighters

Noise Cancellation/Reduction

In the short term, firefighters' physical defense from this racket may be an affordable earplug in one ear and an in-ear speaker (earbud) for the radio in the other. Those needed to run the multiple gas-powered engines should be provided with and necessary to use specific equipment or even full earmuff type safety.

Engineers positioned for hours next to the pump panels fall under this category. They should be provided with and allowed to use an ear muff hearing aid with a noise-canceling microphone, which can be wired straight into the engine radio device or into a portable radio on their belt.

If you're worried about hearing cries for help when looking for a structure, there are a few earplugs that allow you to hear familiar voices but to cut out too noisy impact sounds. They're more expensive, but they're worth it.

When purchasing earplugs or earmuffs, the noise reduction rating (NRR) is the critical number to pay attention to—always looking for the best NRR. The problem at most of the fire scenes is constant noise, not abrupt sharp noise. No hearing aid is more costly than the payment of a firefighter with a reported job-related hearing loss.

Wireless / Hands-free

Hearing protection devices are no longer considered a luxury but a priority for a rapidly increasing number of fire/EMS first responders. Wireless devices are critical for protecting firefighters unless there is an essential purpose to stay connected.

However, wireless doesn't come without its problems. Most wireless headphones run on the overcrowded 2.4GHz band.

Why would you think about that? There are also several other instruments running on that band. There will be occasions where this is not workable, and an alternative mode of communication is needed. Adopting a wireless system increases protection, reaction time, and situational awareness.

Noises When Riding A Motorcycle

The following infographic shows a list of the various noises when you are out and about. Any noise over 70-80db over a long period of time may cause damage to your hearing. A noise of over 120dB may cuase immediate harm to your ears


There are a lot of arguments to switch the wired link to wireless. Over time, Bluetooth has proved itself to be a pioneer in wireless networking solutions. Bluetooth communications and connections are stable and secure with optimized efficiency for audio connectivity applications.

Unlicensed frequency ranges may also be cluttered with interference and noise from other machines, such as Wi-Fi or microwave ovens. They are developing Bluetooth to solve such interference and maintain a direct link. Any wireless systems also provide no input on links.

The last thing a firefighter needs is to be unaware that they've lost their communications. Bluetooth is self-aware of the safety of its connection. If it is going to lose contact, it will warn the user.

Situational Awareness

Nothing is as scary as losing your bearings in a hazardous and sometimes confounding setting, such as a residential or commercial fire.

A decent hearing gear will offer a high degree of alertness that helps keep the firefighters safe. Yet, several safety contact headsets are off the target here by using noise cancelation technologies. "Wait a minute," you might say. "Isn't noise-canceling software the most cutting-edge way to shield your hearing from potentially harmful noise levels around you? "Noise-canceling technology senses the sound coming through the headset and produces vibrations that are out of harmony with specific sounds, canceling them out.

Regrettably, noise-canceling technology will also cancel out the noises you wish to hear in a situation like this. Real situational awareness has been accomplished by speech-enhancing noise reduction, which protects and enables contact without detaching them from their environment.

Water Resistance

This may seem to be an unusual feature to remember while battling fires, but there's a risk that the crew may get soaked. Well, maybe really wet. So your communications headset must stay usable if this occurs.

Noise Level

Consider the noise level in a single night-time motor vehicle crash involving fatigue. Once the siren is switched off, the fire truck engine runs at high rotations per minute (RPM) to keep the line powered. Next, in most situations, a gas-powered engine is fired to fuel the lamps.

Then another gas-powered machine is started to fuel the exhaust tools. All this is going on as the different steel pieces are being pounded to clear them for power tools. For several times, they often incorporate the roar of a gas-powered saw that breaks off the steel or fiberglass across the structural element.

They have several motors operating at high RPM for pumping water, chainsaws cutting drainage holes in roofs, and gas-powered fans producing positive pressure ventilation (PPV). Add the radios, the noise of fire department members cutting holes in the walls and breaking doors, and the lighting on the night scene, and it's a miracle any of them can still hear.

Of course, they'll power on their radios so they can listen to all the crowd noise and shout in the ears of their squad mates to send and get orders.

Several of them are injured when they don't hear a warning. Many people may have been rescued if only they could listen to their screams for rescue. It's hard to find how noisy a raging fire is. Still, whether it reaches 85 dBA (or the noise level of a school cafeteria) over long periods, the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises hearing aids.

The CDC also recommends that anyone with an emergency siren use a hearing aid for over nine seconds. These two data points show that you have a contact headset and one that preserves the ears of the firefighters.

Fit and Comfort

Does your ear protection fit well and smoothly under the helmets of your crews? If they don't, you might be trading comfort for protection. Fire protective equipment has two functions: to shield you from fire and to allow you to walk about reasonably unrestricted.

A safety system that does not fit appropriately under a helmet can significantly affect your helmet's placement, considerably reducing its efficacy.

Talk Time / Battery Life

How long can a fire keep burning? How long would it take for your headset to give out? You can't have the fire crew swapping batteries amid an 8-hour fire. Remember this when you hear of wireless hearing devices.

Would you purchase a headset that needs batteries to be replaced regularly or use a rechargeable option for a longer life? For several units, each of these components is important to the firefighters.

New Tools

The eventual substitution of gas-powered equipment with new battery-operated tools would eliminate individual sources of sound intensity over the long run. The new battery-operated LED lights are compelling. You might hear a radio or clear voice orders and voice alerts about hazards with silent lights.

And because each light has its batteries, there wouldn't be any power lines to run over, and they could be placed at remote locations from each other.

Firefighting Hazards 

If you've ever been a firefighter, you know that their job is one of the most dangerous professions. The very nature of the work exposes them to a lifetime's worth of health hazards. However, one thing we hear less about is how often firefighters are exposed to noise and other toxic chemicals that can hurt their hearing.

In this post, we'll look at some factors to help you choose hearing protection devices for firefighters who are in your service. We'll also look at some issues with choosing ear protection for firefighters and what they should do if they think their hearing has already been damaged by exposure to loud noise or hazardous chemicals while on duty.

100 to 120 decibel noise is a big risk factor for hearing damage

The bottom line on hearing protection for firefighters is that you definitely need it when you're exposed to the noise levels inside a fire station, despite the fact that they're above what our body can hear. 100 decibels is the danger point when people's ears can start to permanently damage their hearing.

Firefighters shouldn't rely on earplugs or the NRR (Noise Reduction Ratings).

We hear all the time about the NRR or Noise Reduction Rating of hearing protection devices. But what's the real story? For example, often manufacturers will claim that a product has an NRR rating of 28 when in fact it only has a rating of 22.

What does that mean for you? It reduces your effective hearing protection when you're exposed to a dangerous noise level by roughly 13 decibels. To get back to this "ideal" level, you'd have to go through an air horn which can be used in many fire stations and cost anywhere from $100-200 depending on size and brand.

Ear muffs is a popular choice for firefighters.

Ear muffs are one of the most popular choices for people who don't have time to seek out hearing protection like a helmet. However, muffs often come with their own set of problems. Most models are designed to cover only half of your ear, which means they provide very little protection from loud noises and anything that will go over the top (shotgun blasts, sirens).

Also, sometimes the earmuffs will hurt your ears while wearing them causing pain and dizziness. Another problem is that muff types can be tricky to get on for some people.

Many people use ear plugs.

You'll often see firefighters at fire scenes with earplugs in. Unfortunately, earplugs aren't very effective in reducing the risk of hearing loss for firefighters because they take a long time to work and don't block out as much noise as you'd think.

Another problem with earplugs is they often fall out.

Earplugs tend to move around on your ears which means they can get caught in the folds of your ear and be hard to retrieve effectively. This can easily cause hearing damage through loud noises. If you or someone you know has trouble keeping their earplugs in, consider buying reusable custom molds and put them into a sports helmet for a stronger fit that will stay in place.

It's not just the noise from the fire that causes hearing damage.

It's important to remember that the noise levels inside the fire station can be as high if not higher than a fire scene. This is because of all the equipment and activities firefighters are involved in when they're on duty. And remember not to forget about the complaints from neighbors that you might have to deal with when you're on duty.

When you're on duty, your ears get tired from doing a lot of work.

Did you know that the ear muscle is actually one of the most important muscles in the body? When we work on a job, our ears get tired and will tire out even more when someone keeps telling us to turn up the music in a fire station. This can mean that firefighters have difficulty hearing more than very soft sounds which is something that makes it harder for them to protect themselves from noise exposure-related hearing loss.

Firefighters should know their own limits when it comes to noise and other toxic chemicals

It's important for all firefighters to understand their own physical limits when it comes to noise and other toxic chemicals. If you have a heart condition or any other ailment, it's important to know what levels of noise your body can handle.

Experience the benefits of custom earplugs with an improved NRR up to 30 dB.

The good news is that there are still products on the market that can help you improve your hearing protection without breaking your budget. In fact, these custom earplugs are designed to offer a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 30dB, which means they will help protect your hearing better than most earplugs or muffs.

They also come in easy reusable molds so you don't have to worry about them falling out and ending up in places they shouldn't be.

Do you like music?

For many people, music is a way to relax and enjoy time when they're not on duty. However, listening to loud music can cause problems for your ears and may prevent you from hearing sounds that are needed to do your job. For example, if you're in a fight with a suspect, a song with a volume of 100 decibels (dB) could result in the inability to hear normal sounds at around 127 dB.

Considering that firefighters also have to work in areas where noise levels can be very high even when there isn't any loud music playing (sirens, fire engines), it's important that they protect their ears as often as possible.


Can't you withstand the current firefighting predicament? With the minimal price of earplugs and earbuds, they can be significant on the list of health and safety products to be bought by your firefighting department.

Lights, drills, and saws would take more time and resources, of course. But performance can be tested when you don't have to scream to be heard at a retirement party—especially your own.

Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

Howard Leight by Honeywell Impact Sport Sound Amplification Electronic Shooting Earmuff, Green
  • Built-in directional microphones amplify range commands and other ambient sounds to a safe 82 dB, providing more natural listening and enhanced communication
  • Actively listens and automatically shuts off amplification when ambient sound reaches 82 dB; Noise Reduction Rating (NRR): 22
  • Features low profile earcups for firearm stock clearance; adjustable headband for secure fit; compact folding design for convenient storage; classic green color
  • Includes AUX input and 3.5 mm connection cord for MP3 players and scanners. Integrated power/volume knob
  • Includes 2 AAA batteries; automatic shut-off feature after 4 hours increases battery life; approximately 350 hours of battery life; works well and long with Polaroid AAA Batteries

Last update on 2023-11-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Other Questions

What equipment does a firefighter use?

Firefighters have to use a lot of different equipment depending upon the situation. The main equipment is the firefighting Equipment that is used to extinguish fires and includes fire fighting hoses, portable fire pumps, fire hose reels, fire monitors, and fire fighting nozzles.

Apart from that, firefighters also carry some items which are necessary such as a knife, smoke mask, flashlight, gloves, and wire cutters. These items help them do their job efficiently. They also carry a protective hood with them, which serves as an additional layer of protection. Firefighting monitors and fire fighting pumps are also among the equipment that firefighters use.

Why do firefighters wear headphones?

According to a study on 192 firefighters, hearing loss was 150% higher than those who did not work in a noisy environment. This means that firefighters are constantly exposed to loud sounds because of their work, which can prove very dangerous for their hearing.

Therefore, they need to wear some kind of ear protection. Most fire workers use earplugs however, some prefer headphones as well. The average decibel of a fire scene usually begins at 80dBA and goes up to 95dBA which is very harmful because constant exposure to noise above 80dBA can cause hearing loss and inner-ear damage therefore firefighters use headphones, earplugs, and other kinds of ear protection.

What firefighters do all day?

Firefighters sometimes work long hours, multiple days in a row, and eat and sleep at the fire station. When they are on job, they may face long waiting periods between the calls so they spend this time testing and repairing equipment, maintaining the firehouse, and training the new firefighters.

Firefighters respond to many calls throughout the day. These calls include technical rescues, medical emergencies, structural fires, and hazardous material spills. When a call is received at the fire station, firefighters are sent an alert through the radio. They respond quickly by forming a team and arriving at the scene.


If you require more information, please check these references

Use of Hearing Protection and Perceptions of Noise Exposure and Hearing Loss Among Construction Workers , article, "www.tandfonline.com", retrieved on, Mon 26-October-2020

Methods of measuring the attenuation of hearing protection devices , article, "asa.scitation.org", retrieved on, Mon 26-October-2020

Test of the health promotion model as a causal model of construction workers' use of hearing protection , article, "onlinelibrary.wiley.com", retrieved on, Mon 26-October-2020


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Nick Le Page

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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