Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs Review

Leight max original.jpg

Honeywell, via their Howard Leight brand, make a wide range of ear plugs, with the Laser Lite and the Leight Max anti-noise ear sausages being a common sight in a lot of workplaces.

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs - the basics

SNR: 37

Price: 17p (box of 200 pairs), 15p (500 pair dispenser refill)

Features: Pre-formed to the shape of the ear canal, disposable

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs performance levels

An SNR of 37dB firmly put these at the upper end of the performance scale, indeed on our list of 200+ types of hearing protector, only two have slightly stronger levels of protection, and even there only by one or two dB.

Stronger is not always better

One word of warning, not all workplaces need, or should have, the strongest hearing protection possible so the fact these plugs perform very well doesn’t automatically mean they are the best choice for every workplace.

As an example, if we take 75dB under the protectors as the ideal level for someone, for an SNR of 37, you are looking at a workplace average dB(C) noise level of about 112 dB(C) to give the 75dB experienced by the wearer. That’s very much on the high side. A lot of workplaces are more around 95 dB(C), which means under the protector people are experiencing something around 58dB, which is way too low and is too much protection. For those workplaces these plugs are too much.

Leight Max and Fork Lift Trucks

One word of caution - I’d be wary about giving fork lift truck drivers these unless they absolutely needed it. They need some protection if in a high noise area but these are people you definitely don’t want to over-protect and whom you want to be well aware of their surroundings.

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs for musicians or music

For listening to loud music or for musicians themselves, the most important thing for any hearing protection is an even impact across the frequency range. The Leight Max only have a 2dB difference between how much they reduce the high frequencies by compared to the low frequencies, which is very good. This 2dB range means the Leight Max plugs are good for musicians, but just bear in mind that overall 37dB level noise reduction as that itself may be a little too much for some cases, such as orchestras.

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs price and value

At 15-17p for a pair of plugs it’s hard to argue against them at all on price - good performance at a really good price makes them superb value.

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs fit and comfort

Leight Max and E-A-R Classic

Other plugs such as the E-A-R Classic are just a cylinder of foam, whereas these Leight Max plugs are shaped to be contoured with the ear canal.

The Max plugs are also a much softer material and expand back into shape much faster than the yellow cylindrical E-A-R Classic plugs.

The Leight Max plugs are also a little longer than some other ear plugs so do need to reach further into the ear canals in order to be most effective.

Leight Max Fitting

For fitting, like all foam plugs you roll them up, lift the ear and slide them in. My problem is that these Leight Max plugs expand so quickly again that by the time I’ve found my ear hole with them, they’ve expanded too much to go in. So roll them again and try again. It usually takes me at least three goes to get them in, whereas with the E-A-R Classic material they go in first time.

Leight Max Comfort

If you take a scale with the Flare Audio ISOLATE plugs at the ‘bloody awful ear torture’ end, and the E-A-R Classic at the ‘forgot they were in there’ opposite end, the Leight Max plugs are about two thirds of the way towards the good end. For four or five hours I have no issues with them, but after that they do start to make my ear canals ache. By six hours I’ve usually had enough of them and have sore ears. Thankfully I have a choice of what hearing protection I wear as I wouldn’t like to wear these all day every day. Occasionally is fine.

It’s just a guess but this may be a function of how quickly they expand back into shape when rolled. They go back to their normal shape quickly which must mean there is always that gentle pressure in the ear as they try to expand, and over a few hours I start to notice that.

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs other comments

Leight Max Ear Plugs in plastic bag

Leight Max Ear Plugs in plastic bag

I do have one wee grumble here. As well as the dispensers you can buy boxes of pairs of these things, and each one comes in its own little plastic bag. Come on Honeywell, seriously? In this day an age surely you can package them in something better than their own little plastic bag which is torn open and thrown away. 3M make individual pairs of their E-A-R Classic available in a similar way and manage to put those in a tiny little cardboard box rather than throw-away plastic. That’s not acceptable Honeywell.

Howard Leight Max Ear Plugs summary

✔︎ God value.

✔︎ Comfortable-ish.

✔︎ Strong protection.

✘ But probably too strong for a lot of workplaces.

✘ A black mark for the little plastic bag.

Not the most pain-free ear plugs and can be a bit of a bugger to fit, and probably too strong for a lot of workplaces, but pretty decent and a good choice. I’m just glad I don’t heave to wear these every day as over time they do get a little sore.