Folks, ear drums are capable of only taking a certain amount of pounding. Eventually, they wear out, and are incapable of improvement by any amount of exercise or stretching. The building world is full of loud bangs, compressed shots, whining saws, and rumbling engines. Therefore, it is critical to commit to proper ear protection. Proper ear protection not only reduces long term audible deterioration, but also reduces daily fatigue and stress.
Certainly, using the capable gear is essential to combatting a job site's overwhelming sounds, but equally as essential is developing a system that encourages the actual use of the gear. Owning the best earplugs means precious little if they are never worn. I've settled on a duo-approach of both earmuffs and earplugs. By and large, I keep the earplugs in all the time and sling on the muffs when surrounded by high impact and continual sound. The earplugs reduce incoming sound by about 20-db and the earmuffs block another 34-db or so. When combined, they create quite a quiet environment while not blocking out the critical audio feedback given by colleagues and machines. In particular, the earplugs that I use are high-fidelity plugs designed with musicians in mind. Their design helps mitigate excess noise while producing little distortion. Developing the habit of always wearing earplugs establishes a new audible baseline, one that is 20-db in your hearing's favor. The muffs are effective, but cumbersome to constantly put on and off. The earplugs work well enough for short bursts, and the earmuffs are worth layers on top of the plugs when facing long term exposure. Let's take care of things.
I highly recommend watching AVE's videos here and here. AVE is a cantankerous Canuck who digs into the guts of power tools and has a knack for cutting through the industry's fads. Truth be told, we all know that we need to wear hearing protection. It's the sunscreen of the building world. Hopefully, my blurb and AVE's videos help turn that knowing into doing. I am grateful for his impromptu research on the actual volume of various power tools. Also, here is a couple of charts and tables provided by the fine folks at OSHA. They serve as a decent gauge for how different rates of exposure effect a day's work.