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Best Hearing Protection For Woodworking

Updated: August 16, 2023
Woodworking is a high-decibel hobby, and woodworking ear protection is a must. The best hearing protection offers high noise reduction ratings, are comfortable to use, and offers Bluetooth for music and calls. You can learn what is suitable for you in this guide.
Woodworking Hearing Protection Ear Muffs
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Best Hearing Protection For Woodworking


OSHA Compliant, 27dB NRR







After turning on the planer and dust collector, any workshop immediately heads past the 85-decibel limit considered safe. Which is why having the best hearing protection is a must.

But what best protects your ears?

Well, consider the following:

  • NRR measures decibels of noise reduction and are standardized. The higher the NRR in “dB,” the better.
  • Ear muffs are generally less protective than earplugs
  • Bluetooth is available, but it reduces the NRR
  • OSHA regulates hearing protection, and any regulated environment must follow the appropriate regulations when choosing

While woodworkers will prefer between choosing ear muffs, ear plugs, or hybrids of the two with Bluetooth, one thing is a must: picking the highest NRR.

Our Experience

From decades using simple ear plugs, ear muffs and now the latest Bluetooth from ISOTunes we’ve tried all of the variety of hearing protection solutions in our woodworking. 

And, as serious woodworkers know, wouldn’t consider anything other than a Bluetooth protector with the highest NRR to make the often monotonous woodworking tasks go by faster.

When looking for a solution, be sure to compare NRR ratings (the higher the better), Bluetooth quality, noise cancelling technology and ability to dual-purpose your headset for phone calls.

Top Manufacturers

Like most tool brands, there are a few key players in this space that have dedicated their craft to making the best solutions for industrial workers:

Choosing a solution from one of these manufacturers is usually a best bet in not only quality but ongoing support.

Woodworking Ear PRotection

1. 3M Gel Cushioned Ear Muffs With Bluetooth

3M Bluetooth Ear Muffs

See on Amazon: 3M Gel Cushioned Muffs 


While slightly less NRR than the classic ear muffs, the Bluetooth version offers more functionality to get you through the grind.

And you can combine these in high-decibel jobs with inexpensive, standard earplugs.

Key features of these Bluetooth ear muffs:

  • Integrated microphone
  • Flexible headband with cutouts for hard hats
  • Make and take calls
  • Bluetooth
  • Longer batter life with some models up to 30 hours
  • Noise amplification and shooting protection (optional)


  • Bluetooth
  • Make and take calls
  • Optional AM/FM
  • Gel cushions for comfort


  • Price
  • Lower NRR than other muffs

2. ISOTunes Bluetooth Ear Plugs For Woodworking

ISOtunes Xtra 2.0 Earplug Earbuds: OSHA Compliant...

See on Amazon: ISOTunes Pro 2.0 Bluetooth 


Regarding Bluetooth, most think of over-the-ear muffs first and not earplugs.

However, some earplugs are OSHA compliant and offer a decent 27 NRR rating for most woodworking equipment. 

When wouldn’t I use them? I would put these down when using high-decibel machinery like a planer or spending hours at a machine like a table saw. While 27 NRR for a Bluetooth earplug is good, there are higher decibel reduction solutions on the market.


The ISOTunes are one of the few ear plugs that are OSHA certified, and this version offers an NRR rating of 27. 

Key features of the ISOTunes 2.0:

  • Heat-activated memory foam ear tips
  • ANSI-certified and OSHA-compliant
  • 27dB of noise reduction
  • 16-hour battery life
  • Clear call technology in loud environments with noise cancellation


  • Lightweight
  • Bluetooth
  • OSHA compliance available
  • Take calls from your earplugs


  • Reduced noise reduction vs. standard foam plugs
  • Price

3. Digital Hearing Muff Option

PROHEAR Digital Electronic Shooting Ear Protection...

See on Amazon: PROHEAR Shooting Muffs 


Taking a twist on the standard Bluetooth ear muffs, noise-cancelling earmuffs with sound amplification offer:

  • Quality NRR (not as high as Bluetooth earplugs)
  • Fast noise cancellation that allows for conversations but (in some models) 0.005 second reaction time to stop loud noises


  • Gel seals
  • 5x sound amplification
  • 1-year warranty


  • Lower NRR rating

4. Basic Hearing Protector Plugs

Quality Reusable Earplugs 100 Pair - 25dB Corded...

See on Amazon: Re-usable Ear Plugs 


A plug is an excellent option for portable hearing protection without the weight and pressure of ear muffs.

Besides the increased portability of a hearing plug, you’ll also enjoy benefits such as the following:

  • Improved portability as you can put some in your toolbox, truck, pocket, or leave at the job site
  • Throw-away use (though most can be re-used)
  • For extremely loud environments, plugs can be combined with ear muffs for a slightly increased NRR


  • Cheap
  • Portable
  • No weight
  • No ear pressure from muffs


  • No Bluetooth

Why You Need Woodworking Ear Protection

DIY Keyboard Tray Cutting the Shelf

You need woodworking ear protection if you use any saw, router, air-powered tool or just about any other power tool.  Not much else to say – woodworking requires ear protection.

Plenty of tools and decibel charts are available, but the standard is sound at or above 85 decibels can cause hearing loss.  This includes prolonged exposure to, say, 86 decibels – or “impulse” sounds, such as a 12 gauge shotgun at 150 dB that can cause immediate damage.

So how do I test my workshop to know my actual sound levels?  The government agency NIOSH released the Sound Level Meter App to test good levels anywhere.  Now this doesn’t replace the regulated work environment tools and processes.  As you can guess, it does bring high-quality proper testing to your smartphone.  If you don’t have an iPhone and need a testing tool, you can get one on Amazon.

Following the directions and reports available within this application, you can determine your workshop’s sound levels.  Don’t forget cabinet installation tools should be included in your evaluation.  Hint: table saws, jigsaws, planers, grinders, belt sanders, routers, and many more devices are typically above 100 decibels.

What is noise induced hearing loss?

So now you know prolonged exposure to 85 decibels or higher is a problem; what causes hearing loss?

Loss of ear hair causes hearing loss.  Deep inside your inner ear, there is hair that enables sound to be transferred into something our brains understand.  Specific “impulse” noises exceeding 140-150 decibels can cause instant damage to this hair.

And prolonged exposure over 85 decibels will also cause damage.  The National Institute on Deafness and Communication Disorders (NIDC) has a full rundown of how the ear works if you want all the technical details on sound transfer.

Humans cannot regrow hair cells, so damage done to your hearing is permanent.  Noise-induced hearing loss is no joke.

What should I look for in hearing protection?

Get ready for some math to determine what you need in hearing protection – but this will be a breeze since you know woodworking.  The goal, of course, is to get under 85dB to avoid hearing loss.  You first need to understand what your exposure in decibels is.  We showed you an application for your iPhone, but you can get one on Amazon if you need a device (sorry, Android users).  Once you know your sound levels, you can keep going.  

You can pick out hearing protection now that you have your decibel exposure.  Sometimes, as crazy as it sounds, you might need two protectors to reduce the noise to an acceptable level.  And it’s possible you might not get to a safe working limit, and length of exposure or other fixes may be required.

Please stick with it – the math will get a little involved, but it’s essential to understand.  

Hearing protectors are rated by their Noise Reduction Rating (NRR).  You will see a range of offerings from 20-35+ NRR ear muffs and ear plugs.  If you have a table and saw, and your working distance decibel level is 110dB, then a 35 NRR hearing muff should do it – right?  110-35 = 85dB.  Confusingly no – the formula is a bit trickier as the 35 NRR actual decibel reduction is (NRR – 7)/2.  Or, (35-7)/2 = 14dB reduction against the 110dB table saw makes for a 96dB actual sound.  

So how do you get to 85dB?  You can double up the hearing protectors and use ear muffs and ear plugs.  Add a 29 NRR set of ear plugs (29-7)/2 = 11dB, and you could reduce that 96dB sound to 85 dB.

Best music playing hearing protectors

Woodworking can be monotonous.  And music to (safely) power you through the day is a great option.

Another set of hearing protectors is an excellent option for your lower-decibel activities.  Remember, you will lose the NRR rating, and based on the volume of music possibly cancels out the NRR altogether.  

Things to look for in this category:

  • Lithium battery and playing time
  • NRR rating
  • Earmuffs vs. earplug headphones
  • Bluetooth 
Are you looking for a clever way to keep a high NRR rating?  It might depend on your ear size, but combining the Decibel Defense ear muffs and ISOTunes Pro might give you a high NRR combination.  Just keep the volume down.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is NRR?

NRR is the noise reduction rating of hearing protection devices. The higher the NRR, the more decibels the ear protectors will protect against.

Can I use my airpods while woodworking?

While AirPods with noise-canceling technology can reduce perceived noise, they are not generally marked as hearing protectors. Please review the latest manufacturer instructions before considering them hearing protection devices.

Can Bluetooth hearing protectors function to make phone calls?

Yes, most Bluetooth-enabled hearing protectors have built-in audio and microphone to allow you to make and take phone calls.


While woodworking is enjoyable and relaxing, safety equipment is necessary for decades of safe building.  And having the proper hearing protection for woodworking will help you enjoy this hobby for decades.

Disclaimer:  Any business, entity, or individual regulated by any government (state or federal) agency must follow their respective guidelines, regulations, laws, etc. and hearing protection as governed or regulated. Hearing protectors only reduce decibels, and use may still result in hearing loss.

  • About the Author
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( Woodworker )

Eric has been a professional woodworker for over thirty years and has worked in small cabinet shops making everything from kitchen cabinets to hand-made furniture. Now working from a home woodworking shop Eric is sharing his passion for woodworking, tool advice and how-to knowledge from his Minnesota-based woodshop.

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