A leaf blower

Q. Is hearing protection really necessary while I'm leaf-blowing?

A. There are certainly differences in noise levels among leaf blower types, says Dave Trezza, who tests leaf blowers for CR. For example, gas leaf blowers—particularly backpack models—are the loudest and the cause for the most concern: Some can generate enough noise to risk hearing damage in as little as 2 hours. 

More on Hearing Loss & Leaf Blowers

Although electric handheld leaf blowers are quieter, hearing damage is cumulative, so protection is still a good idea. Look for leaf blowers that score well in our tests for noise at ear and noise at 50 feet.

And when shopping for ear protection, "check the NRR (noise reduction rating)," Trezza says. "Most will have an NRR between 20 and 30, but the higher the number, the better."

Which Products Are Damaging Your Hearing?

Some outdoor yard equipment is so noisy it can damage your hearing within 15 minutes. On the "Consumer 101" TV show, Consumer Reports’ expert Eric Hagerman explains how CR tests to find out how loud—and dangerous—these products can be to your hearing.

Editors Note: This article also appeared in the October 2018 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.