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Your hearing is vitally important and if you’ve ever left a concert with your ears ringing you know just how fragile it can be. That’s why professionals that work in hazardous noise environments wear hearing protection religiously.
Hearing protection falls into two major categories, inner ear and outer ear. Inner ear protection is inserted into the ear canal itself. Oftentimes this is a simple piece of foam, but as you’ll see in this Peltor Tep-100 review, it can be considerably more advanced.
Outer ear protection is better known as earmuffs. These are cups that sit over the ears, typically with a headband running between them.
Each type of hearing protection has its advantages. Inner ear protection offers greater protection, referred to as Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR. It is also more comfortable to wear with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as hard hats or helmets.
Outer ear protection is generally more comfortable for long-term wear, and also easier to remove and put back on if walking in and out of a hazardous noise area.
Within each category there are electronic and non-electronic offerings. Non-electronic hearing protection simply blocks the sound entering the ear by creating a physical barrier.
Electronic hearing protection includes a microphone to pick up sounds that aren’t hazardous to the user and then relay them through the physical barrier of the hearing protection. The result is that you are protected from the sounds that will harm your hearing, but are still able to hear the ones that won’t, such as voices.
Inner ear electronic hearing protection, such as the TEP-100 we’re reviewing today, is some of the most advanced on the market. So let’s dive in and take a closer look.
No matter what type of hearing protection you are considering purchasing the main consideration is always NRR. NRR is measured in decibles (db) and the higher the number the better the protection it provides.
The more challenging the noise environment, the higher NRR you will want to purchase. For more hazardous noise environments such as indoor shooting ranges, factories, and construction sites you will want an NRR of near or above 30.
Outdoor activities such as hunting or mowing the lawn typically require a much lower NRR in the lower 20s. More protection isn’t necessarily better or worse, you just need to make sure it’s appropriate for the environment you will be using it for.
With inner ear protection, next I look at comfort. Inner ear protection can get uncomfortable, if not down right painful when worn for a long period of time. The outward pressure on the inner ear canal can lead to soreness when worn for hours. The last thing you want after being on your feet for a long shift is pain caused by your hearing protection.
Finally, with any electronic hearing protection battery life is always a concern. The noise amplification technology is only as good as long as it has power and short battery life can limit the practical usefulness a product.
The TEP-100s are Peltor’s only offering in the electronic inner ear hearing protection category. As a result, they really compare best to other electronic outer ear hearing protection such as the Peltor Tactical Pro, which is aimed at the same target consumer.
The first thing to note is that they have an outstanding NRR of 30 with the Skull Screws eartips. This is much higher than the NRR 26 of the Tactical Pro and higher than other brands such as the Clarus Pro, which only has an NRR of 25. This makes it an outstanding choice for extremely noisy environments.
The TEP-100s rate high on comfort. Users tend to report finding them very comfortable for all day wear. The kit comes with 4 sets of replaceable tips and additional ones are available for purchase in several materials and sizes so finding a comfortable fit shouldn’t be a problem with a little trial and error.
The TEP-100s have an interesting recharging design to extend battery life. The case holds 3 AA batteries that can be used to recharge the earplugs. Micro-USB through the case is also an option. The earplugs themselves have a battery life of about 4 hours.
While this isn’t quite long enough for all day wear, it is a respectable battery life and is at least partially mitigated by the ability to charge on the go with the case.
One issue users have reported with the TEP-100s is the quality of noise reproduction. The noise amplification does not tend to be as crisp as over ear electronic hearing protection. Wind noise in outdoor environments in particular is a problem as it can drown out all other sounds you may want amplified.
To be fair, this is a general problem with the inner ear electronic hearing protection category more than just this product. It’s difficult to fit the electronics necessary for the noise amplification into such a small package so quality issues when compared to the larger over ear electronic hearing protection are not surprising.
If inner-ear electronic earplugs are the hearing protection of choice for you, then I hope this 3M Peltor TEP-100 review has shown you that they are an outstanding option for you to consider.
The overall level of protection, comfort and form factor make them an excellent choice that I would highly recommend.