The Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) is a laboratory-derived single-number rating designed to advertise a hearing protector's noise reduction capabilities. To quantify hearing protector performance, the EPA specifies laboratory test protocols where a trained experimenter fits individual subjects with appropriately sized hearing protectors.
The NRR is intended to help consumers understand the amount of protection that will be provided by the hearing protector. The EPA states that the level of noise entering a person's ear, when the hearing protector is well-fitted and worn as directed, can be determined by subtracting the NRR from the environmental noise level. The higher the NRR, the more protection is expected from that product.
Here is a breakdown of how to read an NRR label.
In the above example, according to the EPA, a person wearing this hearing protector correctly and exposed to environmental noise of 96 dB may expect sounds to be reduced to approximately 70 dB, a safe level (96 – 26 = 70 dB). Hearing protector packaging labels must list the NRR, product name, manufacturer information, further detail regarding the average amount of noise reduction across a broad range of test frequencies (125 to 8000 Hz), and instructions on how to apply the NRR.
As a user of hearing protection, it is helpful to consider the NRR in relation to noise levels. Extremely loud activities such as using a chainsaw may call for a higher NRR than listening to music in a club, for example. Choose lower NRR products for lower noise exposures, so that you’re not “overprotected” in your environment. That said, remember that features such as comfort and ease of use are just as essential to your success protecting your hearing. A device that is uncomfortable or difficult to use won’t do much good if you are reluctant to wear it or if it doesn’t stay put for the duration of your noisy activity.
If you have questions about which hearing protectors may work well for your noisy activities, contact WildEar at Support@WildEar.com. We can help get you the protection you need!