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How to Select and Use Hearing Protection

Ask This Old House host Kevin O’Connor discusses the importance of hearing protection when working around power tools


  1. Hearing loss affects 30 million US adults and the damage is cumulative.
  2. Exposure to sounds over 85 decibels is considered harmful.
  3. A good rule of thumb is if you need to shout to talk to someone standing at arm’s length, you should be wearing hearing protection.
  4. Ear muffs block out mid-frequency sounds like general shop noise, but they don’t do as well with low-frequency sounds.
  5. Foam ear plugs will block both mid- and low-frequency sounds.
  6. Foam ear plugs should be rolled in the finger to be compressed, then tug on your ear and place the plug into your ear canal to let it expand.
  7. Keep hearing protection in a convenient spot so you’re more likely to reach for it.


The hearing protection that Kevin demonstrated, including over-the-ear and ear plugs, was manufactured by 3M Safety.

Personal Protective Equipment, including ear protection, can be purchased at home centers and hardware stores.