There are three very important reasons to wear hearing protection in the workshop. First and most importantly, cumulative exposure to loud noise leads to hearing loss. There is no real cure for deafness, so you owe it to yourself to try to prevent it from happening in the workshop by always wearing hearing protection around machines. This applies not only when you personally are working at a noisy machine, but also when anyone in the shop is working at a noisy machine within your hearing range. The second reason is that with hearing protection on you can concentrate on the work at hand and not be fighting the constant loud noise of the machine. Finally, hearing protection will prevent occasion loud noises in a busy shop from breaking your concentration and allow you to pay attention to what you are doing without distraction. We have a tendency to wear hearing protection even in our exposed cubicles at the office so that we can concentrate on the work. A quieter environment is a safer environment. It’s also important to have comfortable earmuffs that can be worn for long periods of time. We don’t like in-the-ear plugs for regular use because they get dirty and can lead to infection. And we don’t like earphones with radios built in, both because it’s distracting and because it too could lead to hearing loss.
These ear muffs are the ones we use. They offer 30db of hearing protection, which is about as high as you can get, but you will still get moderate range noise, so you aren’t working in an echo chamber and you’ll be able to hear if someone calls you. The best part of these muffs is that they are adjustable and really comfortable, so you won’t find them oppressive to wear.
A note on safety: When you are working on a machine - with or without hearing protection - train everyone who has access to the shop while you’re working to NEVER talk to you or touch you while you are working on a machine during an operation. Being suddenly touched, signaled, or called might startle you and cause you to lose a grip, lose concentration, or lead to accidents. If the phone rings, they can wait until you finish the cut and turn off the machine to tell you about it.