Do you work in a noisy environment? Are you a musician or a concert-goer? Do you enjoy hunting or shooting? You need hearing protection if you answered yes to any of these questions. But with so many options on the market, how do you choose the best one for you?
The right hearing protection can mean the difference between enjoying a hobby or job without damaging your hearing and suffering from permanent hearing loss. But with so many options, figuring out which is best for your needs can be overwhelming. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most popular types of hearing protection and help you determine which one is right for you.
Whether you’re looking for earplugs, earmuffs, or custom-molded options, we’ll provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision and protect your hearing for years to come.
Our hearing is incredibly fragile, and protecting it is incredibly important for our long-term well-being as we age.
In This Article:
- Different Types of Hearing & Ear Protection
- Earplugs vs Earmuffs
- Ear & Hearing Protection Brands
- The Best Hearing Protection Products
- Individual Hearing Protection Reviews
- Hearing Protection Buyer’s Guide
- Pick the Right Ear Protection for You
Different Types of Hearing & Ear Protection
There are two major categories of hearing protection we’ll be talking about, inner and outer ear. The inner ear is generally known as earplugs and sits inside the ear canal. Outer ear hearing protection devices are known as earmuffs and sit over the ears.
We’ll also discuss the electronic or shooting hearing protection subcategory, which crosses both categories. Let’s look at each in more detail.
Hearing Protection For Shooting
One of the most common high-decibel rating sounds is the shot of a firearm. Without proper hearing protection, a gunshot can be devastating to your ears. Therefore, while visiting the shooting range, you must ensure you have the best shooting range ear protection.
Advanced in-ear shooting earbuds provide protection, noise-cancellation, amplification, communication and Bluetooth capabilities. This range of products is ideal for advanced shooters and hunters who need a versatile ear pro.
One of the top shooting activities is waterfowl hunting; we have compiled a list of the top duck hunting ear pro, which will help you on your next hunt.
If your game is something other than birds, there’s a range of hunting hearing enhancement for deer, boars or whatever else you might be staring at through your scope!
Hearing Protection for Tools & Work
If you’ve worked in a commercial or industrial environment, you likely needed to wear ear protection as part of your job. You can find more in our guide to the best earplugs for work here.
If you’d prefer to wear a dedicated set of hearing protection for work, you can find Reusable construction earplugs that will last many uses for you.
Not only your job but you also engage in activities at home that could harm your hearing, so you should wear hearing protection. For example, you might require the Best Hearing Protection for Lawn Mowing if you run a gas mower or other loud yard tools.
There are many situations where you will be using loud tools and equipment and need the best ear protection for leaf blowers or have noise going on around you that harms your hearing while at work or doing chores at home.
Hearing Protection for Music and Concerts
Of course, once we’re done with our week of work, and this weekend isn’t looking great for shooting, you may require hearing protection for the loud concert you’re going to tonight.
Loud music is another one of the most common scenarios in which we need hearing protection. And it’s not just the audience; performers also need hearing protection and other features.
Which category do you fall into?
Ear Protection For Children and Infants
While a child’s hearing is developing, loud noises can damage their hearing and cause long-term effects that could negatively affect them.
Taking your children to a loud event or environment? They should have the proper hearing protection that fits their ears. Ear protection for kids is essential.
Do you have a toddler under 4 years old or a baby? Ear protection must be comfortable and not too tight-fitting for their soft heads. Please read our guide on hearing protection for babies.
Many people, starting in their youth, have trouble with loud noises and sensory issues with the surrounding environment. People on the autism spectrum can have much difficulty managing; this is where noise-cancelling headphones for autism have become very popular to help manage the discomfort associated with overstimulation.
Motorcycling Hearing Protection
Hearing Protection for Motorcyclists is essential for riders to safeguard their hearing from the loud noise generated by the engine and wind. Pairing it with the quietest helmets enhances the overall auditory experience, allowing riders to enjoy their journey with reduced noise levels. To minimize wind noise in the helmet, riders can opt for helmets with advanced aerodynamic designs and snugly fitting visors, ensuring a quieter and more comfortable riding experience.
Do you know how to reduce wind noise in your helmet?
Bluetooth Hearing Protection
The Best Bluetooth Hearing Protection provides a convenient and wireless solution for riders who want to enjoy their favorite music, take calls, or use navigation while wearing hearing protection.
With Bluetooth connectivity, riders can easily connect their devices to their hearing protection and enjoy a seamless audio experience without compromising their safety. This technology allows riders to stay connected and entertained while maintaining their focus on the road.
Earplugs vs Earmuffs
Earplugs and earmuffs both offer distinct advantages and disadvantages when it comes to hearing protection and use.
Earplugs typically sit within the inner ear canal; however, some are designed to conform to the outside of the ear canal using a moldable wax or putty.
Highest NRR Earplugs – for the most noise reduction
Earplugs have a higher average NRR rating than earmuffs. Typical NRR ratings tend to be in the upper 20s, but many are in the 32 to 33 dB range, which is the maximum for earplugs. Earplugs can be disposable, designed for one-time use, or reusable.
Disposable earplugs are made from expandable foam compressed for insertion into the ear canal and then expanded to create a seal. Reusable earplugs are typically designed from soft silicone and have a cone-shaped flange design for easy insertion and a tight seal.
Earmuffs sit over the ears and are held on using a headband designed to go over the top of the head or behind the head at the top of the neckline.
Earmuffs come in a wide variety of NRR ratings. The top models for best earmuffs hearing protection typically receive an NRR of 34db. However, the more common ratings are in the mid-to-high 20db range. Earmuffs are generally considered to be more comfortable than inner ear hearing protection.
Earplugs put constant pressure on the ear canal, and after a period of extended wear, this pressure becomes uncomfortable or even painful. Earmuffs are situated on the outside of the ear and avoid much of this discomfort.
Electronic earmuffs are popular among shooters and outdoor enthusiasts. However, you could also consider these for hearing pro with communication in commercial scenarios, aviation and more. Learn more about electronic earmuffs.
The tradeoff is that you now have two bulky cups on either side of your head and a headband that may interfere with other cranial protection you are wearing.
Ear & Hearing Protection Brands
If you are looking at hearing protection, there are a few brands that you need to be aware of. These are the top industrial/commercial and recreational hearing protection brands.
Read Our Review: 3M Peltor Tactical 100
3M is one of the top brands in workplace safety overall, and Peltor is the sub-brand under which they distribute their earmuff and electronic products. Peltor, in particular, is very well known in the electronic hearing protection space. They were one of the first electronic hearing protection systems on the market and are still known for having the best electronic quality.
3M is extremely well known in the inner ear and disposable earplugs market for industrial and commercial use. Their bright yellow foam earplugs are iconic in workplaces nationwide and are widely acknowledged for their combination of form and function. In addition, both Peltor and 3M are known for building hearing protection solutions for some of the most challenging environments and have earned a reputation to match.
See all of our Howard Leight earmuff reviews.
Howard Leight is the hearing protection brand associated with Honeywell, one of the top brands in workplace safety. Howard Leight is well known for making quality products across the gambit of hearing protection types, from earplugs, and earmuffs to electronic hearing protection. However, they are probably best known for their industrial disposable earplugs, commonly found at worksites, and their Impact line of electronic hearing protection, the best-selling electronic earmuffs on the market.
Howard Leight has been producing hearing protection solutions for over 30 years, and this experience shines through in a range of popular and well-reviewed earplugs and earmuffs solutions. So no matter what type of hearing protection solution you are looking for, there is a good chance that a Howard Leight product will be on your shortlist of candidates.
The Best Hearing Protection Products
ClearArmour Safety Earmuffs
Howard Leight Max-1 Foam Earplugs
3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs
Howard Leight Impact Sport
Howard Leight Laser Lite Disposable Earplugs
Pro for Sho Earmuffs
Peltor Sport Tactical 100
Howard Leight Impact Pro
3M Optime Behind the Head Earmuffs
Individual Hearing Protection Reviews
We compiled our top products by looking at the top-rated and top-selling products on Amazon and then selecting those that gave the best value for the protection and user satisfaction. We think that you’ll agree that these are the best options out there after you read our top 5 hearing protection reviews below.
3M Disposable Earplugs
Not only are 3M classic disposable earplugs the highest-rated earplugs on Amazon, with an astonishing 4.8-star average customer satisfaction rating. In addition, they are the top-selling earplugs in the world. The Tekk earplugs are specifically designed for light industrial or home/recreational use. They come in bulk packaging that is perfect for having available at the worksite or keeping on hand in the garage.
These have an NRR of 29db. This is considered perfect for industrial uses such as construction, manufacturing and agriculture. Recreational uses include lawncare/mowing, woodworking, or indoor and outdoor shooting. Slow expansion foam was used in the design, meaning you have plenty of time to get them properly situated and comfortable. The foam is also moisture resistant, meaning these earplugs will perform the same no matter what environment you have them in.
They are flame resistant, which is an advantage for worksites with high heat or arc flash potential. These earplugs are a perfect example of why 3M has attained such an outstanding reputation in the hearing protection market.
ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs
ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs are both the highest customer-rated at 4.7 stars and the highest NRR earmuffs available on Amazon at an outstanding 34db. With an NRR of 34dB, these earmuffs are appropriate for anything you want to use them for, whether it’s light or heavy industrial work, manufacturing, indoor or outdoor shooting.
These earmuffs provide more than enough protection to handle it all. The secret to the high level of protection these provide is a NASA-developed LRPu foam that dampens mid-high range frequencies. The result is an outstanding level of protection that earned the ClearArmor Safety Earmuffs the #1 Best Seller spot in the Amazon Safety Ear Protection Accessories category.
Not only do these earmuffs provide some of the best ear protection out there, but they are also extremely comfortable. They have a full ½” of foam on the headband and extra soft foam padding on the ear cups. The result is a set of earmuffs that are comfortable for extended wear.
Howard Leight Max-1 Foam Earplugs
The Howard Leight Max-1 is the world’s most used polyurethane foam earplug. The Max-1s were designed with protection and comfort in mind. They offer an NRR of 33db, which is at the very top end of what earplugs are capable of. The polyurethane foam is extremely soft and designed with a unique bell shape. The Bell shape matches the contour of the inner ear.
This creates the most comfortable fit possible; while preventing the earplugs from backing out of the ear canal, lowering protective value. As a result, the Max-1 earplugs have a high enough NRR value to be appropriate for almost all industrial settings, including high-noise environments such as heavy manufacturing.
They come in a bright orange color, giving visibility to the earplug inside the ear canal. This lets you do safety checks from a distance to ensure workers comply with site safety regulations.
3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs
You can’t go wrong with a classic. 3M E-A-R Classic Earplugs were the first foam earplugs on the market and set the standard for the industry. Despite being the first, they are still among the highest-rated and highest-selling ear protection solutions on the market. These have an NRR of 29, making them appropriate for light industrial, recreational, and indoor and outdoor shooting. Unless you are in a deafening commercial environment, these should give you more than enough protection.
They are made from low-pressure, slow-recovery foam that easily compresses between the fingers and gives plenty of time to situate the earplug inside the ear canal. They are moisture-resistant and will continue to work in humid and wet environments. They are also fire retardant and appropriate for use in work environments where arc-flash may be an issue. These comply with OSHA personal protective equipment standards and are bright yellow to aid in visual compliance checks.
Howard Leight Impact Sport
The Howard Leight Impact Sport is the first electronic hearing protection we are looking at in this review. They are the #1 Best Seller in the Hunting and Shooting Earmuffs category on Amazon and one of the best-rated pairs of electronic earmuffs. They utilize two external microphones to capture ambient noise.
The microphones are recessed and foam-covered to prevent wind noise problems, which have been known to plague other electronic hearing protection. In addition, these use a clipping technology that shuts off amplification within milliseconds any time there is a sound louder than 82db, such as a gunshot. Users report that the sound amplification gives them “super hearing” and is a must-have when hunting.
These are also very comfortable for long-term wear. They have a slimline design that sits comfortably on the head and won’t interfere while shooting. The NRR of 22db is appropriate for outdoor shooting and hunting. If you want to use them at an indoor shooting range, you’ll likely have to double them up with inner ear hearing protection. However, these earmuffs are a must-have if you are an avid sportsman or hunter.
The Rest of the List
- Howard Leight Laser Lite Disposable Earplugs are a great pair of industrial earplugs with an innovative “T” design for easy insertion and removal.
- Pro for Sho Earmuffs – These are a pair of industrial-level passive earmuffs. If you are a commercial professional looking for passive earmuffs for work, definitely look at these.
- Peltor Sport Tactical 100 – The top-rated Peltor electronic earmuffs. These include outstanding Peltor electronic technology at an affordable price.
- Howard Leight Impact Pro – If you are looking for electronic earmuffs for indoor shooting, then the Impact Pros may be for you with an NRR of 30db.
- 3M Optime Behind the Head Earmuffs – If you need to wear cranial personal protective equipment, then take a look at the 3M Optime. The behind-the-ear band will keep them from getting in the way while wearing a hard hat.
Hearing Protection Buyer’s Guide
What to Look for in Hearing Protection?
When looking at the best hearing protectors, we are generally concerned about one factor above all others, Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR.
NRR measures how much the hearing protection lowers the sound reaching our ears, as measured in decibels or dB. So if you are at a sporting event with an average noise level of 95db and you are wearing hearing protection with an NRR of 20db, then the effective sound level reaching your ears is 75db.
It’s important to have a concept of these numbers since sustained exposure to sounds over 85db can start to cause hearing damage. So when we talk about the best hearing protection ratings, we are really talking about one number, NRR.
When determining the best hearing protection to purchase, always start with your needs first. It would be best if you began by determining how loud the environment you will be in is. Heavy industries such as heavy manufacturing typically require an NRR of 30db or greater. Light manufacturing or indoor shooting typically needs to be 25 dB or greater.
What Activity Will You Be Doing?
Suppose you plan on using your hearing protection for outdoor shooting, hunting, or recreation activities such as lawn mowing or going to a loud sporting event or concert. You will likely only need 20 dB or greater protection in that case. Once you have determined your needs, you can look at the products that provide you with enough protection and then at other factors that may be decision points.
Most activities with known noise levels require a standard range of protection, but you can find out exactly how much protection you need with a decibel meter; read the Best Decibel Meter Reviews here.
How Comfortable is it?
Of course, comfort should be high on the list of any user.
Even the best ear protection can be rendered nearly useless if it isn’t comfortable enough to wear for extended periods of time. Or, in the case of earmuffs, if they are bulky enough to interfere with other equipment or activities, that may be a prohibitive factor to you properly using them. For earmuffs, style often is a factor for consumers, especially if they intend to wear them for recreational activities.
After all, who doesn’t want to look good while they protect their hearing? Once you have determined your needs, you can really hone in on which product is perfect for you. No matter what your needs are, I think you’ll find that there are many great products to meet them.
Pick the Right Ear Protection for You
Thank you for taking the time to look through our Best Hearing Protection Review. I think you’ll agree that we’ve only scratched the surface of what is available on the market to meet your needs. However, if you want to dive deeper, we’ve got a lot of great information and reviews on specific categories and products that can help you figure out exactly the perfect product.
Whether you are interested in earplugs, earmuffs, electronic hearing protection or a mix of all of them, you will find information on this site to help you learn more and show you how to find the perfect pair of hearing protection for you. So please dive in, explore and enjoy!
Images sourced from Amazon.com.
- Understanding Hearing and Ear Health:
- Basics of how hearing works
- Common causes of hearing loss
- Signs and symptoms of hearing damage
- Long-term effects of exposure to loud noise
- Types of Ear Protection:
- Earplugs (disposable, reusable, custom-molded)
- Earmuffs (passive, electronic)
- Specialized ear protection for musicians, swimmers, etc.
- Comparison of different types and their effectiveness
- Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR):
- Understanding NRR and its importance
- How to read and interpret NRR labels
- Differences in protection levels
- Choosing the Right Ear Protection:
- Factors to consider (environment, noise levels, comfort, duration of use)
- Guide to selecting ear protection for various scenarios (work, leisure, sleep)
- Children and ear protection
- Use and Maintenance of Ear Protection:
- Proper usage of earplugs and earmuffs
- Cleaning and maintenance tips
- When to replace your ear protection
- Legal and Workplace Safety Standards:
- OSHA regulations on hearing protection
- Workplace hearing conservation programs
- Rights and responsibilities of employers and employees
- Hearing Protection for Recreational Activities:
- Ear protection for concerts, festivals, and clubs
- Protecting hearing during recreational shooting and motorsports
- Custom ear protection solutions for specific hobbies
- Technological Advances in Hearing Protection:
- Electronic ear protection
- Smart earplugs and earmuffs
- Innovations in hearing protection technology
- Health and Wellness:
- The relationship between overall health and hearing health
- Impact of hearing loss on mental health
- Tips for maintaining good ear and hearing health
- Educational Resources and Awareness:
- Educational programs and campaigns about hearing conservation
- Resources for schools and community groups
- Creating awareness about the importance of hearing protection
- Hearing Protection for Specific Industries:
- Customized solutions for industries like construction, manufacturing, aviation
- Case studies and best practices
- Interviews with industry experts
- Hearing Tests and Assessments:
- Importance of regular hearing assessments
- Types of hearing tests available
- How to interpret test results
- Personal Stories and Testimonials:
- Experiences of individuals with noise-induced hearing loss
- Success stories of effective hearing conservation
- User reviews and recommendations
- FAQs and Myth Busting:
- Common misconceptions about hearing protection
- Answers to frequently asked questions
- Global Perspectives:
- Hearing protection standards and practices around the world
- Cultural attitudes towards hearing conservation