Issuing hearing protection
Once you have done the noise assessment and are using one of the three methods to decide which models of hearing protector you can use, how do you go about choosing which one(s) to issue to the staff? There is one basic rule to follow:
Have a few approved and available forms of hearing protection
An employer needs to have a few types of hearing protector available for employees to choose from. Some people loathe putting things in their ears, and many of those may feel some form of pain as the plug pushes against the delicate ear canal. Also not everyone has the same sized ear canals, so for example one plug may fit perfectly in your 60 year old long-serving Production Manager who has lug holes you could drive a train through, but the young apprentice may have tiny tubes that the plug is just too big for. Other people meanwhile loathe the slight pressure and heat on their ears which they get from ear muffs.
I would always recommend that an employer has, as a minimum, two approved forms of ear plug and two approved forms of muff/defender. That way an employee can choose the best one for them, the compliance with using it will be better and everyone wins.
You may also find that some specific people or groups need another different for of hearing protection, for example forklift truck drivers may need something different.
Ear plugs vs defenders (muffs) - which are best?
There is no 'best' and provided both have been assessed as being suitable for the noise risk (done as part of the noise assessment) then both are as good as each other.
'Tis true that ear defenders (ear muffs) can be more powerful than plugs but more powerful is not synonymous with 'best' and you usually do not want the most powerful protection on the market.