If you happen to work in or need to spend a prolonged period of time in a dangerously loud environment, it can be potentially hazardous to your hearing and cause irreparable damage. It’s a huge concern in construction industries where ear protection is not just a matter of comfort but of essential health. It’s not unheard of (sorry about the bad pun!) for people working in environments where the noise level is regularly off the scale to wind up completely deaf so do not neglect your delicate hearing. Whether you work in construction, are visiting a noisy site or even partake in shooting as a pastime, then adequate hearing protectors are essential. We appreciate it might not be an item that is top of your wish list but trust us, deciding which ear protectors to go for is every bit as important as choosing your next power tool! Even more so if you’ve got your eye on a noisy hammer drill for a big home DIY project! As we appreciate it’s not the sexiest subject, although we rather think it is, we’ve done the hard work for you of narrowing down the most popular and feature-rich, budget-friendly hearing protectors we could find. So sit back and relax as we run you through the best hearing protectors currently on the market place.
The Best Hearing Protectors
If you are currently looking for an excellent pair of functional hearing protectors that will deliver good protection from impact noises, combined with a comfortable over the ear design, then the Howard Leight Impact Sport Electronic Earmuff could be a sound investment. They’re our Best Choice today on account of the fact that they are easy to fold, transport and store plus they have a comfortable, adjustable headband to fit all head shapes and sizes.
Howard Leight has manufactured these earmuffs with unique Air Flow Control technology which adds to the overall wearer experience plus they can also very conveniently be connected to an MP3 player or other electronic devices. Better still, while they do provide excellent noise protection, they have also been designed to enable you still to hear warning signals, conversations, and general surrounding sounds safely, meaning you don’t end up putting yourself in danger by entirely blocking out all noise and distractions. They’re conveniently supplied with a handy carry case so you can protect your earmuffs when you travel. Make sure you also check our guide to the best noise canceling earphones.
Built-in directional microphones
Deliver enhanced communication and natural listening
Low profile ear cups with adjustable, secure fit headband
Compact folding design in classic green color
- BrandHoward Leight
- Weight1.6 pounds
Noise reduction rating of 22 dB
Perfect for indoor and outdoor shooting ranges
Automatic shut down after 4 hours use
Average battery life of 350 hours
Pads don’t seal properly around all ears
These 3M Worktunes overhead hearing protectors offer the best protection in seamless streaming combined with harmful noise reduction. With Bluetooth wireless technology, they are conveniently cordless as well as featuring safe volume control which enables the wearer to correct and maintain appropriate safe sound levels all day long. With audio assist technology, you can still hear essential instructions and conversations without having to remove your headphones.
The headband itself has been redesigned to include enhanced radio performance for more precise and crisper sound quality and features an AM/FM digital radio for your entertainment. You can conveniently pre-set these wireless hearing protectors to play your favorite channel automatically. The ear cushions are plush and comfortable while the headband is both adjustable and offers ventilation.
Safe volume control technology
Audio assist technology for effortless setup
Bluetooth wireless enabled
Vented and padded headband for comfort
- Brand3M Safety
- Weight1.3 pounds
Deliver noise reduction rating of 24 dB
Extra comfortable and secure fit
Convenient cordless design
Combined with AM/FM radio
Rotary Tuning Dial
Annoyingly loud voice assist
The first pair of hearing protectors from popular manufacture Peltor to make it onto our best of review today, the 3M Optime are a traditional over-ear design and are great for providing comfortable, general all-around hearing protection. They’re fantastic for supporting anyone working in a noisy or extremely loud environment, isolating those damaging high and low frequencies. This makes them a particularly wise investment for anyone working in a busy environment where they still need to have their wits about them and be able to respond to ambient noises as well as co-workers conversations. They can impressively block out sounds up to 105 dB.
They deliver a comfortable fit thanks to those soft plastic foam filled cups and broad sealing rings which also help to keep your ears feeling cool too. They also ergonomically follow the contour of your ears for a close and comfortable fit. The stainless steel headband is wear resistant yet at the same time flexible so they should fit pretty much any head size. These 3M Peltor Optime Over Head Hearing Protectors combine effective hearing protection with maximum user comfort. Our handy guide to the best running earphones features more great products like this.
Recommended for very loud noise conditions
Features a patented twin cup design
Boost noise reduction through full range of low and high frequencies
Lightweight headband and pivoting ear cups for maximum wearer comfort
- Weight12.8 ounces
Deliver noise reduction rating of 30 dB
Incorporate double-shell technology for advanced noise blocking
Extra comfortable and secure fit
No batteries required to operate
Perfect for indoor and outdoor range shooting and construction environments
Don’t come with a protective carry case
This next product recommendation comes from Walker and is their Slim Shooter Electronic muffs which have been designed and engineered by the manufacturer to deliver a new standard in low profile hearing protection. To coin their marketing phase, “protect it or lose it.” They’ve engineered these muffs from the ground up so deliver impressive noise reduction without compromising or interfering with your hearing. With a comfort fit headband, they can be worn all day long too and come in a host of attractive colors and not just your standard black issue.
Other impressive features include a raised tactile ridge with the on/off button so even if you are wearing heavy work gloves you can still operate these hearing protectors plus they also have those all-important omnidirectional mics which ensure crisp, clear audio. There’s also a 3.5mm jack input which can be used for hooking up these muddy to an iPod, MP3 player or handheld radio. Plenty more to write home about but we’ll finish up with their slim folding design which makes them compact and portable and perfect to accompany you on that next trip to the shooting range.
Razor patented thin but comfortable protective rubberized cups
Feature two omnidirectional microphones for clear audio
Noise reduction rating of 23dB
Conveniently battery operated taking 2 AAA batteries which are included
- BrandWalker’s Game Ear
- Weight1 pounds
Activated noise protection over 89dB
0.02 reaction time
Audio input jack
Full dynamic range HD speakers
Single knob volume control
Some issues with audio quality
We’ve picked out another pair of hearing protectors from 3M Safety, and this time it’s their WorkTunes Connect with Bluetooth technology that gets the review treatment. With an active noise reduction rating of 24 dB, with these attractive looking 3M overhead earmuffs, you can seamlessly stream your entertainment from a mobile phone or Bluetooth enabled device while wearing these hearing protectors. They also feature high fidelity premium sound speakers too along with an integrated microphone so that you can even make and receive calls without the hassle or inconvenience of having to remove your ear protectors.
The cord and antenna-free design doesn’t just look stylish, but it’s also a practical choice too meaning that you have plenty of flexibility to move about on the job. They’re easy to use with just a single simple button which can be used to set up voice assist plus they’re lightweight and low profile design ensures a comfortable fit. There’s also an auto shut off feature plus they have a built-in rechargeable battery and are compatible with standard USB chargers. An excellent choice packed with features and stylish good looks. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best swimming earphones.
Easy to use with simple set up and operation
Lightweight and low profile design
Comfortably cushioned earmuffs with cordless design
Fully compatible with standard USB chargers
- Brand3M Safety
- Weight10.7 ounces
Activated noise protection of 24dB
Bluetooth wireless technology
40mm high fidelity speakers for premium sound
Make and receive calls without removing ear protectors
No audio volume control
Up next we’re taking a look at another pair of excellent over-ear hearing protectors from Peltor with their professional style Sport Tactical Electronic Protectors. They’re perfect for shooters and lovers of hunting as well as delivering professional level hearing protection for industrial workplace support. They feature an adjustable level function for quick response, interference prevention as well as superior sound reproduction. They successfully prevent harmful loud noises while simultaneously being responsive and reliable. In fact, we’d go as far as to say that wearing these earmuffs you can still hear every bit as well as without them, just in a safer way.
They’re comfortable to wear too with an ergonomic design that means they’re ideally suited to wearing for extended periods of time. They also feature a convenient 2 hour auto-shut off and run-on cost efficient 2 AAA batteries. The specially engineered headband delivers a superb, comfortable fit.
Low profile designed ear cups perfect for shotgun use
Automatic 2 hour shut off
Improved fit comfort design headband
Wind reduction durable recessed microphones
- BrandPeltor Sport
- Weight15.2 ounces
Foldable design for convenient storage
22 dB Noise reduction rating
Amplify voices for clearer communication
Easy access battery door with low battery indicator
Soft ear cushions with comfortable tight seal
Battery life quickly runs out
The Mpow is a passive rather than an electronic over ear safety muff that’s fully certified and tested to meet the rigorous demands of both the American and European board of standards. They’re classified as being totally safe and effective in filtering out loud and potentially dangerous sounds to a safe level. They filter sounds down from 22 dB up to 33dB and are made from padded layers of noise dampening foam with a retractable and flexible steel headband that’s suitable for both adults and kids to wear.
If you enjoy hunting, shooting or racing Mpow Noise Reduction Safety Ear Muffs are a great pair of performing ear protectors as well as being suitable for anyone who operates loud machinery for a living. Overall, they’re lightweight and comfortable, and that soft style headband won’t cause a build-up of pressure leading to headaches if you do end up wearing them for prolonged periods. Featuring sound insulated sponge alongside a multi-layered sealed design, they perfectly protect your ears from a wide range of harmful noises from welding and hunting to sawing and shooting. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best Bluetooth earpieces.
High-quality adjustable headband design
Ergonomically designed for your comfort
Designed with 2-layers of noise dampening foam
Double shell, solid high sealed cup protection
- Weight11.2 ounces
Can filter sound down as low as 22 dB
Fully internationally certified to all required safety standards
Lightweight and foldable for easy storage
Come with a carry bag and manual
Soft and comfortable earmuffs
Little on tight side for very large heads
An attractive looking pair of professional overhead earmuff style hearing protectors, these Husqvarna’s are fully adjustable and offer a universal fit. They’re great for anyone working with lawn and garden equipment such as big lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and chain saws and offer an adequate level of noise protection for the wearer. They’re lightweight and nicely padded, so they’re comfortable to wear without the need for a hard hat. The headband is not just universally designed so that one size fits all, it also features pressure adjustment too so you shouldn’t end up with a headache if you’ve been wearing them for several hours. As such, they’re a popular choice for many outdoor professions.
Lightweight and comfortable to wear
Good amount of padding on the earmuffs
Universally adjustable headband
Designed for use without a hard hat
- Weight10.4 ounces
Good quality construction
Adjustable style headband
Comfortable to wear
Affordable price tag
Feel a bit flimsy
If you don’t like the idea of wearing cumbersome hearing protectors that cover up your entire ear, then this Easy Shield design from Otis Technology might be more appealing to you. It’s a passive style headset so doesn’t require batteries to operate either which means it’s a cost-effective option. They’re simple yet stylish in design too.
Overall, they’re actually pretty neat when it comes to blocking out sound while still enabling the wearer to hear important ambient sound within the proximity. That’s important if you’re wearing these to the shooting range for example. They’re comfortable, practical, lightweight to carry as well as also being collapsible too, so they take up limited space. They make a wise and budget-friendly choice if you need to eliminate dangerous high-frequency sounds while still retaining the ability to hear speech without the inconvenience of having to remove your headset continually. What’s also important to note about the compact and slimline design is that they won’t interfere with a shooters cheek weld the way that a larger pair of over ear muffs would. In that respect, they’re a firm favorite for indoor and outdoor range practice.
Eliminate stock interference
Comfortable and easy to wear with slimline design
Reduce high decibel sound waves to safe and manageable levels
Allow wearer to still hear commands and communicate clearly
- BrandOtis Technology
Offer 31dB hearing protection
Help to improve communication
Lightweight, comfortable and cool to wear
No batteries required
Uncomfortable to wear for prolonged use
Our Best Value hearing protectors product choice today goes to these Tacklife 28dB earmuffs which are fully adjustable and perfect for both adults as well as children. These noise-canceling headphones have an extra comfortable padded headband which helps to minimize and reduce the build-up of pressure, especially important if you have to wear your hearing protectors for extended periods. They’re comfortable over the ears too thanks to thick foam padding and have a foldable design meaning that they are compact and perfect for travel.
Fully certified to all appropriate safety standards and with a noise reducing equipment rating of 28dB, they’re suitable for a range of activities for adults and kids from hunting, shooting and manufacturing to attending rock concerts. The ergonomic design with its retractable stainless steel headband ensures these ear muffs can be adjusted to fit all. They are also sweat resistant, and in the further nice touch which makes these headphones look more expensive than they actually are, the logo is inset into the ABS cub shell rather than printed. A high faulty but budget-friendly recommendation.
Multifunctional protective earmuffs for indoor and outdoor use
Unique double deck reinforced noise reduction sponge
Small and compact with lightweight, foldable design
Ear cups conveniently collapse inside the headband
- Weight12 ounces
Can filter sound down as low as 28 dB
Certified to ASNI safety standards
Sweat resistant and comfortable to wear
Adjustable headband design
Perfect for both adults and kids
Headband a little on the tight side
These Amazon Basics Noise Reduction Safety Earmuffs may well be incredibly budget-friendly, but they’re also fully certified too and will help protect those delicate ears from loud noises, delivering a 26 dB rating which is every bit as good as many of the more expensive options we’ve reviewed. Fancy they are not, but functional they most definitely are. Made from a robust and durable ABS and PU plastic combined with a soft and comfortable noise-noise-dampening sponge material, they’re in the classic overhead design with a fully adjustable headband.
They’re compact and portable and available in a couple of color options; all in classic black with a vibrant contrasted colored ring on the ear cups to add some personalization. They’re great for both indoor and outdoor use and are fully backed by Amazon’s generous 1-year limited warranty.
Made with noise dampening sponge
Come in a variety of colors
Perfect for indoor and outdoor activities
Overhead ear muff design easily slips on for ideal fit
- Weight10.9 ounces
Can filter sound down as low as 23 dB
Certified to ASNI safety standards
Lightweight and foldable for easy storage
Adjustable headband design
Soft and comfortable earmuffs
No carry case provided
Hearing Protector Buying Guide & FAQ
How We Chose Our Selection Of Hearing Protectors
Our product review team don’t always have the opportunity to try out every single product for themselves and when it comes to something more technical like a pair of hearing protectors, its essential to read reviews and get a professional assessment of their overall suitability from the people who are using them day in day out to support their work or pastime. We spend hours evaluating feedback from customers both professional and amateur as well as ensuring that a comprehensive cross-section of reputable brands are included in our reviews. Quality, of course, is of paramount importance and while the final price is not a key driver as everyone’s budget is different, offering outstanding value for money is, so cost is considered where it’s relevant.
Based on Reviews, Brand, Price, and Quality, we were then able to draw up what we believe to be an impressive selection of the best hearing protectors for your consideration.
Features To Look For In Hearing Protectors
Below are some top tips and recommendations on features we suggest you look out for before you purchase a pair of hearing protectors.
NPR – Meaning the Noise Protection Rating, this is the important number that denotes how many decibels of noise reduction protection your hearing protectors can physically provide.
Passive vs. electronic – Since we are living very much in a digital world, almost everything these days comes with its original passive model vs. the latest technologically advanced electronic version and hearing protectors are no different in that respect. It’s not necessarily the case though that electronic means those earplugs or earmuffs are going to perform any better than their passive brothers! Digital earmuffs will notably come with additional features that you might appreciate such as audio input and output which can be adjusted, but it comes to their ability to block out sound, that’s more a function of the design than the technology.
Connectivity – Connectivity is only going to be a consideration if you are opting for an electronic style in which case they might come with some pretty cool additional features including the ability to hook up to your iPhone or MP3 player or directional microphones that mean you can still hear important ambient sounds. Electronic hearing protectors may also feature a convenient USB recharge or an affordable battery option.
Comfort & Adjustability – What makes the best hearing protectors most beneficial is how well they fit and how comfortable they feel around your ear area. If they’re just too big to be practical and let in too much sound that’s every bit as bad as if they are too small and uncomfortable and don’t fit into your ear canal correctly. You need to purchase a pair that feel right to you, never mind the latest trends and shapes and sizes. It’s all about comfort so if you have a larger than average head, you need to ensure that the headband is adjustable to accommodate that and that the ear cups end up being positioned exactly where you need them to be, over your ears and not down around your neck somewhere!
Decibel levels – It’s advisable to wear hearing protection if you are going to be exposed to a sound that registers over 85 decibels. Some of the most common workplace sounds are listed out below, all of which demonstrate the requirement for hearing protection.
- Typical street sound = 85 decibels
- Lawn mower = 85 decibels
- Forklift truck = 90 decibels
- Chainsaw = 115 decibels
Types Of Hearing Protectors
Over-ear – If you don’t like the idea of having something fixed inside your ear, especially for an extended amount of time, then your preference is likely to be for an over-ear muff style hearing protector. These are generally made from a sound-attenuating material with soft and comfortable ear cushions that fit around a hard outer cap all of which will be held together by an adjustable headband. They’re very adept at muffling out dangerous noise levels and offering protection from exposure to loud noises.
In-ear – When it comes to in-ear plugs you have several different options to choose from. Earplugs are n’t just effective at minimizing sound, but also protecting the inner ear from water too. They are generally classified by their construction:
- Foam plugs – inexpensive and made from PVC
- Silicone plugs – softer with what we’d describe as a dough like feeling and molded to fit inside the ear canal
- Flanged plugs – consist of a series of webbed rings which secure them inside the ear canal and provide an effective barrier to noise while also presenting the plugs from falling out
- Custom-molded plugs – made to order specifically for the patient’s ear to ensure an exact fit
Hearing Protector FAQ
Q: Are earplugs better than earmuffs?
A: Both earplugs and earmuffs offer adequate protection, so it’s more a case of which type you feel more comfortable wearing. The type of disposable earplug that you twist and which further expands inside the ear canal can be highly effective at blocking out noise plus they are lightweight, unobtrusive and also cost-effective. The downside is that they isolate and block out so much of your surrounding noise which can conversely be a safety hazard. They’re also uncomfortable to wear if you’re suffering from an earache or have sensitive ears.
On the flip side, earmuffs are bulkier and can get quite hot over time plus they don’t block out quite so much noise. If you’re working outdoors in the winter months, they can also double up as ear warmers too!
Q: What part of the ear is damaged as a result of hazardous noise?
A: The physical process of hearing is quite a complex one which requires the auditory nerve to carry signals to the brain via a series of fairly complex steps. Initially sounds waves enter the outer ear and travel through the canal which leads to the inner eardrum. It’s the eardrum which then vibrates and sends those vibrations to three tiny bones that make up the middle ear. The middle ear then sends the air vibrations into the cochlea or inner ear which is filled with fluid. The vibrations subsequently cause that fluid to ripple with traveling waveforms upon which tiny little hair cells travel. The movement of these hair cells creates a further electrical signal which is carried to the brain and translated into what we call sound.
In most cases of NIHL, it’s damage to these tiny microscopic hairs which results in loss of hiring. In a human, once those hair cells are damaged, they’re gone for good and never grow back.
Q: What noise level can damage hearing?
A: Noise-induced hearing loss, or NIHL as it’s shortened down to, can be caused by a one-time exposure to an intense sound such as an explosion for example or from continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period of time such as those commonly experienced in the workplace. Besides those two scenarios, there are also a number of recreational activities that can put you at risk from NIHL including target shooting, attending loud music concerts as well as operating machinery such as lawnmowers and leaf blowers.
Noise itself is measured using the metric of decibels and anything registered as below 75 decibels is unlikely to cause any form of long term damage. However, if you are regularly exposed to sounds exceeding 85 decibels, there is a real possibility that your hearing could be damaged.
Just to put that into context, below we’ve listed out some of the common average decibel ratings for some of the most frequent and familiar sounds.
- Refrigerator humming = 45 decibels
- Everyday conversation = 60 decibels
- Heavy city traffic = 85 decibels
- Motorcycles = 95 decibels
- MP3 player at maximum output = 105 decibels
- Sirens = 120 decibels
- Firearms = 150 decibels
Q: Can earplugs damage your ears?
A: It’s certainly important to note that if not worn correctly, there is a danger that earplugs can cause more harm than good. While they are uniquely designed to protect the inner structure of the ear, there are a couple of instances in which they should be avoided for your own protection. Notably wearing earplugs can be dangerous and lead to impacted ear wax. Under normal everyday circumstances, ear wax drains little by little to prevent the build-up of impacted wax which itself is characterized by tinnitus or ringing in the ear. Wearing earplugs can prevent draining so you need to ensure that you clean both the earplugs and your ear canal routinely if you are going to be regularly wearing earplugs.
The other danger is that earplugs do such a good job of muffling sound that if you are in a dangerous environment, you won’t be alerted should any critical emergency alarms be sounded, such as smoke alarms for example. If you need to be alert, for example in a circumstance where you are looking after a child, driving or operating machinery in a potentially dangerous environment, it pays to have both your wits and your hearing sharp at all times.
Also be careful to avoid the build-up on bacteria which can lead to ear infections and at worse, hearing loss.
Q: What is the highest NRR rating for earmuffs?
A: NRR stands for Noice Reduction Rating and denotes the maximum level of sound that your earplugs or earmuffs are capable of blocking out. The rating is likely to be a maximum of 33 for earplugs and slightly lower at 31 for earmuffs. If you were to combine earplugs and earmuffs together, that level increases to 36. Compare that with disposal or reusable style earplugs which can only provide mid to low 20’s NRR rating protection.
Q: What are the benefits if I wear earplugs and earmuffs at the same time?
A: Double airing protection is recommended if you are working in environments or operating machinery that emits a noise frequency of over 105 decibels. They’re also a great idea if you are operating firearms which emit high noise levels. By combining earplugs with earmuffs, you can get an extra 4 to 8 decibels on average of noise protection which means that the sound overall could be anywhere from 25% to 45% quieter by wearing both at the same time.
- Noise-Induced Hearing Loss – NIDCD
- When and How to Use Earplugs to Prevent Hearing Loss – Medical Hearing Systems
- NRR Rating – Custom Protect Ear
- Double Hearing Protection – Noise Help