Head and ear protection buying guide

Head and ear protection buying guide

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

22 guides

Any task involving sounds of over 85 dB can put your hearing at risk and requires the use of ear defenders. Head protection, including bump caps or hard hats, is compulsory in any industry that presents a risk of bumps or falling objects. Need more guidance? Read on to find the correct head and ear protection.

Important features

  • Bump cap
  • Hard hat
  • Electronic ear defenders
  • Standard ear defenders
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Bump caps vs. hard hats

Before you set about choosing your head protection, you need to be aware of the types of risks involved in your work. Each protective device has to conform to a specific set of safety standards and is therefore designed to protect you from a particular set of risks.

Bump caps


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Bump caps are lightweight, comfortable caps designed to protect your head against minor impacts that could cause superficial injuries or cuts. Bump caps must conform to the European safety standard EN 812. Of course these caps will never be able to rival a hard hat in terms of impact resistance.

Hard hats

Hard hats are stronger and should be used for any task that presents more serious risks. For protection against falling objects, use a hard hat that conforms to EN 397 which sets out the standards for industrial safety helmets. Please note that hard hats conforming to this standard will not protect you from objects flying sideways, or sharp or heavy objects. In this case, you'll need a hard hat that conforms to EN 14052 which sets out the standards for high performance industrial safety helmets. Hard hats conforming to standard EN 397 will also protect you from electric shocks up to 440 volts. Professionals working in an environment with a high risk of electric shocks should wear a hard hat conforming to EN 50365 which sets out the standards for electrically insulating helmets for use on low voltage installations.

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Hard hats

Standard or electronic ear defenders

Standard ear defenders


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Standard ear defenders are made up of a head band linking two noise-cancelling ear pieces. It's up to you to pick the level of comfort and protection you need. In order to decide, you'll need to think about Single Number Rating (SNR) which determines how much protection the device offers. This is measured in decibels (dB) and will be indicated in the product specifications.

Generally speaking, any hearing protection device that conforms to standard EN 352 will have an SNR of around 20 dB to 36 dB. Your choice will depend on the level of comfort you're after and the types of jobs you need to do. While ear plugs may be more comfortable for prolonged use, ear defenders are recommended for intermittent wear.

Electronic ear defenders 


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Electronic or 'active' ear defenders contain a microphone that takes in ambient noise and treats it so that the sound is sent back out at a lower volume through a speaker.

To give you an idea of how important it is to protect your hearing, here are a few different noise levels to consider: a chainsaw or circular saw emits around 80 to 120 dB, a jackhammer or jet engine emits 120 to 160 dB and a gunshot can reach over 160 dB! Considering any noise level exceeding 85 dB can put your hearing at risk, you don't want to be taking any chances.

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Noise-cancelling headsets


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Of course, it is possible to invest in a hard hatequipped with a noise-cancelling system. Some even come with a visor to cover your face and protect you from flying debris. Others might also feature a neck shade which is ideal for protecting your head from dust and UV rays while working outdoors. Just don't be tempted to wear it to the beach!

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Safety visors

How to choose the right head or ear protection


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In terms of comfort, it's important to think about the following factors when choosing your ear defenders or head protection.

  • The weight of the protection: for greater comfort over long periods of wear.
  • Padding: for example, a cushioned fabric lining for intensive use or a forehead pad to prevent rubbing.
  • An adjustable chinstrap for tasks involving a lot of movement.

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Guide written by:

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff, 22 guides

Holly, self-taught DIYer, Cardiff

First of all, my studies have nothing to do with decoration or DIY as I was specialised in management. My passion in DIY started 5 years ago (very recently!) Everything started when we bought a house to renovate from floor to ceiling. As I’m a self-taught person, I started working on different house project both inside and outside. My husband helped me but the student soon overtook the teacher! And as there are a lot of green spaces in Creuse, gardening tools have no secrets for me. My friends and family often come to me for advice when it comes to DIY. Today, I want to share this with you!

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