Canal Caps vs Ear Plugs
The four main types of hearing protection devices are regular disposable foam ear plugs, reusable pre-molded ear plugs (often made from silicone), canal caps/semi-insert ear plugs, and industrial ear muffs. According to OSHA, "Earmuffs and foam earplugs in most cases offer the most noise reduction. However, preformed plugs or canal caps may be more convenient where construction work generates moderate daily average noise levels. There is no one device that is the best type for all situations."
Canal Caps vs Ear Plugs – Which Hearing PPE is Best for your Business?
While ear plugs and ear muffs offer hearing protection for work environments with loud noise levels, canal caps are a convenient type of hearing protection specifically for work environments with moderate daily average noise levels, where hearing protection is only needed for short periods of time.
Canal caps have rounded heads that cover the entrance to the ear canal. These flexible tips act as caps which plug the ear canal. They only close the ear opening and do not extend deep into the ear canal. The flexible foam tips are attached to a headband which can hang around your neck when not in use.
Semi-insert ear plugs are very similar to canal caps. According to the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health, semi-insert ear plugs generally have conical tips that are pushed into the ear canal.
Both canal caps and semi-insert ear plugs are convenient for situations where hearing protection must be taken on and off frequently and quickly. However, they do not provide as much protection as some types of ear plugs.
Earplugs are also used to prevent hearing loss. These devices are inserted in the ear to mitigate the sound that reaches the inner ear (cochlea). Ear plugs block more sound than canal caps but are more difficult to quickly remove.
According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “The main advantage canal caps offer is convenience. When it’s quiet, employees can leave the band hanging around their necks. They can quickly insert the plug tips when hazardous noise starts again. Some people find the pressure from the bands uncomfortable. Not all canal caps have tips that adequately block all types of noise. Generally, the canal caps tips that resemble stand-alone earplugs seem to block the most noise.”
Canal Caps - Pros & Cons
Canal caps and headband hearing protector semi-insert earplugs provide hearing protection against moderate daily average noise levels in work environments where hearing protection is only needed on an intermittent basis. Canal caps may be used to block out nuisance noises. To wear canal caps, insert the tips of the caps into the ear, firmly wiggling them into place.
Canal caps are easy to insert. They are ideal for people going in and out of noisy areas. As they can hang around your neck on a band while not in use, this makes them more convenient to use and more difficult to lose when not in use. Canal caps can be easier to use than pre-molded ear plugs.
Canal caps are only partially inserted into the ear canal, therefore they do not provide as much of a seal inside the ear canal as ear plugs. This means that canal caps do not provide as much noise reduction as foam earplugs or earmuffs. Because they are reusable, they may not be as sanitary as disposable ear plugs. Firm pressure from the headband is required to maintain an effective seal which means that the headband can become uncomfortable with long use.
Canal caps may have a noise reduction rating (NRR) as low as 25dB. Some – though not all – ear plugs and ear muffs have a NRR of 30-33dB. Canal caps are not recommended for use on job sites with continuous exposure to loud noise above 80 decibels.
Ear Plugs - Pros & Cons
Formable or foam ear plugs will expand to fill the ear canal and seal against the walls (when placed in the ear correctly). This expansion allows foam ear plugs to fit ear canals of different sizes. Formable ear plugs are usually sold in bulk as a one-size-fits-most hearing protective device.
Pre-molded ear plugs come in different sizes and shapes to fit different sized ear canals. Pre-molded reusable ear plugs are available with or without a cord.
Expandable foam ear plugs are inexpensive and disposable, making them a sanitary option (when properly used). Certain types of pre-molded and formable ear plugs can offer excellent hearing protection for work environments with noise levels exceeding 85 decibels.
Foam formable ear plugs require ear mold impression; if not properly inserted, the amount of noise reduction is reduced. They can also be difficult to quickly remove. If you remove earplugs too quickly, you could irritate your ear canal or even damage your eardrum.
Reusable pre-molded ear plugs have virtually no expansion or contraction, so obtaining a good seal with the ear canal may be challenging. Again, improper insertion can reduce noise reduction rating value. If not properly cared for, reusable ear plugs can be unsanitary, increasing the risk of ear infections.
If you need to remove your hearing protection often, ear plugs might not be the best hearing PPE option. In that case, industrial ear muffs are a better option for a highly protective, non-invasive hearing device that can be quickly removed. However, the effectiveness of ear muffs depends on how tight the seal is between the foam cushion and the head.
Where to Buy Canal Caps, Ear Plugs & Other Industrial Hearing Protection
Looking for ear plugs and canal caps?
Headband Canal Caps - View All
Moldex 6506 Ear Canal Caps (NRR 25dB) are our top bestseller
Reusable Ear Plugs - View All
Our bestselling corded reusable ear plugs are the Moldex Comets Reusable Earplugs (NRR 25dB)
Disposable Ear Plugs - View All
For bulk disposable ear plugs with the highest independently tested NRR of 33dB, check out the Moldex SparkPlugs Disposable Earplugs
To browse additional canal caps, ear plugs and other hearing protection by NRR (Noise Reduction Rating), check out our Hearing Protection Collection.
Contact X1 Safety to learn more. Or reach out directly to your Account Manager at (248) 221-8076 or email Daryl.Hughes@X1Safety.com.