Wise Buys: Muff-Style Hearing Protectors
NRR 29 dB
One of the noisiest spots in my basement workshop is the area near a screaming shop vacuum connected to the bandsaw. Without hearing protection, my ears start ringing before I can make the first cut! The Peltor Optime muffs deaden that noise so effectively, it's barely detectable. As if that were not great by itself, these muffs also fit so nicely I wore them for hours at a time without discomfort. The thick, wide cushioning creates a tight seal without crushing safety glasses into my temples. And the adjustable wire bands allow me to extend the cups farther apart and bend them slightly outward to adjust the pressure for a perfect fit.
–Tested by Bob Wilson, Techniques Editor
NRR 22 dB
I've used WorkTunes radio muffs in the past, and in this model, a digital tuner with five AM and FM presets has replaced the old analog dial, making it much easier now to find a particular radio station. Now I can flip between AM and FM bands without losing my station, and I get great sound quality and reception. Another improvement is an included cord for hooking up an MP3 player. And to keep me from cranking up the tunes too loudly, the volume control tops out at 85 dB, the level where hearing damage begins to occur.
–Tested by Jeff Mertz, Design Editor
NRR 25 dB
The comfortable Peltor Alert muffs "replace" my hearing so well I never take them off in my shop. They protect my ears against loud noises but allow me to still hear what I need to, such as feedback from tools. Here's how they work: External microphones on each cup pick up sounds from around the shop, and then reduce the high-decibel sounds or amplify softer sounds--keeping every sound at a safe level. So I can hear the swoosh of a block plane as easily as the muted whine of a router. The self-leveling circuitry responds quickly, reducing the POP! of a brad nailer to the point where I only hear a fraction of that usually loud impulse noise. This unit also has a built-in AM/FM radio with a separate volume control.
- Tested by Dave Campbell, Deputy Editor
NRR 26 dB
Even if the Noisebuster muffs did not have electronic capabilities, they'd still be exceptional, comfortable passive muffs. In addition to being a pro woodworker, I'm also a sound technician and own a recording studio, so I know and love sound gadgets. Noisebuster uses a noise-canceling technology that samples the sounds around you with a built-in microphone, and then replicates sound waves exactly opposite of the harmful ones. This effectively reduces noise--especially hard-to-tame low frequencies--to below the danger level of 85 dB before it reaches your ears. It proves so effective at blocking dangerous noise levels that I was blown away. Although there's no built-in radio, the Noisebuster does have an input jack for an MP3 player.
–Tested by Matt Seiler, WOOD Online Forum Host