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Hearing Protector Performance - HML Method

The HML (High, Medium, Low) method estimates the sound level at the ear and, unlike the NRR/SNR methods, takes some account of the frequency content of the noise. This method is a little more complicated than the NRR and SNR methods, but more convenient than the Octave Band method, which is recommended for noise with a high tonal content.

In order to use the HML method you need the following:

Almost all sound level meters come fitted with A-Weighting as standard, as it is the most common type of measurement. For HML or SNR hearing protector calculations check the meter must also have C-Weighting fitted.

First calculate the PNR::

If (LC - LA) > 2dB then


The assumed sound level at the ear is then calculated as:

L'A = LA - PNR + 4dB*


L'A is the effective A-weighted sound level at the ear
LA is the measured A-weighted sound level
LC is the measured C-weighted sound level
PNR is the predicted noise level reduction
H, M and L are the High, Medium and Low values for the hearing protector
* for some regions, such as EU and UK, +4dB is added to allow for "real world" factors, such as badly fitted protectors. This is a recommendation of the HSE.

What's the Target?

Aim to reduce the level at the ear to between 70 and 80 dB(A).

Under-protection - If the level at the ear is still above 80 dB(A) then the protectors are not providing adequate cover.

Over-protection - If the level at the ear is below 70 dB(A) then the worker is being over-protected. This can result in difficult communication and the inability to hear warning alarms. The hearing protection is also likely to be heavier and more uncomfortable then necessary.

Hearing Protection Calculator

NoiseMeters provides a range of online applications for calculating noise exposures along with other noise related calculators. These applications are free to use.

You can use our HML hearing protection calculator to carry out the above calculations and produce a simple report. All you need are the A-weighted and C-weighted sound level measurements and the HML figures from the hearing protector specifications.

HML Hearing Protection Calculator

Don't Use the Peak dB(C)

We have had calls in the past from customers having difficulty calculating the sound level at the ear using the SNR or HML method. The reason is usually that they are using the C-Weighted Peak measurement, rather then the C-weighted Leq or Sound Level.

Most meters designed for occupational noise will clearly display the A-weighted Sound Level and the C-weighted Peak together as these are the first measurements you use when making an assessment, so the mistake is very easy to make.