Thursday, June 16, 2011

"What?" I Care About My Ears When Working! Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection Helps!

The Good: Actually works effectively to mute loud noises, Durable, Generally comfortable
The Bad: Not exactly stylish, Prolonged use may cause earaches
The Basics: A pair of ear protection that truly works, the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection mutes loud noises and protects ears in some of the loudest settings.

The last job I had - because I am far better at working on my own than for anyone or any company - was for a manufacturer of bus parts. I was a pipe cutter and pipe bender and I pretty much loathed the day to day work in the hot shop where I paid almost as much to drive to and from work each night as I made in the evenings. So, when I left that job, I took a souvenir with me: my Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection. It was a parting gift to myself and there was nothing nefarious about them following me out of the factory that final day; I was the only one who used this form of ear/hearing protection. Come to think of it, I was also the only one who regularly used any hearing protection and subsequently the only one who wasn't constantly asking "What?" whenever anyone tried to converse with them on a break or outside work.

The bus part plant was a loud place, filled with the constant roar of brazing torches, machines humming and people knocking pipes and dropping heavy metal parts. I arrived at that job (both times I was employed there) with the knowledge that I would be in need of hearing protection and the first time I worked there, I soon learned that the earplug style hearing protection, reviewed here!, was not ideal for me (they tore up the insides of my ear canal). So, my employer invested in a few pairs of Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection for myself and others like me (there were, as it turned out, none). The need for ear protection was a known factor for me coming to the job; in college I worked at a small night cafe on a grill and after a few weeks battling with insomnia, we discovered that it was because even after I left work at night, my ears and brain were still processing the sound of grease on the grill, keeping me awake. Going into the manufacturing setting, I knew the background noise would be a factor to my overall health and I soon discovered that my needs were for an earmuff style of hearing protection.

The Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection is a simple pair of earmuffs, much like the headphones of the 1970s and early 1980s. They are vinyl cushioned, hardplastic earmuffs connected by a fairly thick gauge of wire. The top of the wire has a padded vinyl strip to prevent the wires from tearing out hair.

Use of the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection is quite simple: place the earmuff portion over each ear and then press the wire headpiece down so that the hearing protection is snug against the head. Each earpiece has an opening in the vinyl cushion so the cushion surrounds the ear, but the outer ear (the cartilage of the ear) may need to be adjusted to actually be placed within the earmuff. The vinyl cushion essentially forms a seal around the ear to prevent sound from entering the ear canal. The outside of the vinyl cushion of the earmuff is hard plastic and there is a connector that connects the earmuff to the wire. The connector is on a swivel joint, so the earmuffs have complete rotational motion (they may be flipped around). The connector is essentially a plastic tube into which the wire goes and this makes the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection adjustable to different sizes of heads. By pressing down on the wire headband the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection is pushed tight against the head and insures the best seal over the ears and the greatest amount of protection for the ears.

Earmuff protection like the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection is somewhat problematic for those wearing eyeglasses or eye protection that is styled like eyeglasses. The frame of glasses - or eyeglass style eye protection - are pressed by the earmuff style hearing protection. Prolonged use may bend the metal frames or lessen the full value of the hearing protection. My experiences with the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection illustrated that the hearing protection worked and only the frames of my glasses suffered. While working at the factory, I protected my glasses with goggle-style eye protection (I might not have been stylish, but I left that job with both eyes and ears intact!) and the strap of goggles may easily be worked around the hearing protection. With the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection there was no noticeable change in the amount of protection for my ears when I removed my glasses vs. when I had them on and pressed close to my skull by the protection.

The only problems I noticed with the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection were physical pain and physical discomfort from prolonged use. Given that I still have full range of hearing, I'd say that was ultimately worth it. The physical pain came from daily use for ten hours a day. After about three weeks of wearing this hearing protection for over fifty hours a week, my outer ears had some tenderness from me taking them off and putting them on pretty constantly. As well, the pressure on my head resulted in headaches at the end of longer shifts. The headaches dissipated easily when I was cooled down and I was able to remove the hearing protection. The physical discomfort came only when heat was a factor. On the hottest days in the factory (summer in a poorly ventilated brick building with a dozen brazing torches running made for some hellish working conditions) the more I perspired the less comfortable the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection were. Sweat made the vinyl of the earmuffs uncomfortable and itchy.

That said, these worked ideally. While wearing the Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection, noises above twenty-nine decibels were muted. This basically lowers the volume on everything as well as mutes high pitch noises. So, for example, the factory almost constantly had music on and each worker's station tended to have their own radio station turned up loud enough to hear over the roar of acetylene torches. The Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection faded all of them to about half their volume. As well, when copper pipes would be dropped, they have a metallic sound that rings at a pretty high pitch (think of how any metal rings when banged together). The Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection muted the ringing as well as the initial impact sound, so everything sounded more like plastic hitting plastic. This hearing protection protects ears by taking the edge off all loud noises and lowering the volume of every noise to below twenty-nine decibels.

Ironically, this has no effect on low volume sounds. So, for example, I could hear whispers more effectively while wearing these because they filter out the loud noises and allow one to hear the quieter ones! Still, finer sounds tend to get edited out and one is left with a more muted impression of sounds. Music is the best example; just as the high pitches of pipes dropping were muted into a more plastic sound without the ringing, bass is muted out and music that is heavier in bass will lose the bassline while these are being worn.

But at the end of the day, these are low prices to pay to keep ears protected and leave a job with a full range of hearing. The Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection protected my ears at the job and now under much less demanding circumstances, I still find use for them. I tend to use these whenever I run my Cheetah Ash Vac (reviewed here!) and whenever I mow the lawn. I'm a lot more serious about protecting my ears than anyone else I know, but I'm also the only one I know who doesn't need the television up loud or the radio blaring just to hear it in the car!

Anyone who is working in a factory or shop setting would do well to use Dewalt Interceptor Earmuff Hearing Protection as they protect the ears for years at a minimal cost.

For other safety product reviews, please check out my takes on:
Laser Lite Corded Earplugs
Kidde Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Detector
Kidde 2 3/4lb. fire extinguisher


For other workshop product reviews, please visit my index page here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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