The Best Electronic Earplugs – 2017 Reviews

If you spend a lot of time in an environment with loud noises you've probably already noticed the negative effects beginning to take hold on your hearing. Maybe you're noticing that you don't hear as well as you once did, or possibly you've developed tinnitus (a ringing in the ears). Whether you have or haven't already experienced signs of hearing loss, you know the importance of protecting your ears, it you didn't you wouldn't be here reading this right now.

​Title

​Image

​Feature

​Purchase

Etymotic Gunsport PRO
Walkers Game Ear Series Elite HD 40

​Allows natural hearing

3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplug
​Walkers Game Ear Micro Elite Clear

​Portable Charging Compartment

​Etymotic MusicPRO™ MP 9-15
Walkers Game Ear Elite Digital HD Power
​Provides either 9 dB or 15dB protection
Westone DefendEar Digital Shooter, 78346
Walkers Game Ear Elite Digital HD PRO

​Nano-Tech Waterproofing 

Walker's Silencer Ear Buds
2000279 GSM Walkers Game Ear Elite Digital HD

​Secure Fit fitting system 

For whatever reason, you've chosen to purchase electronic ear plugs over electronic earmuffs.  Although some people may claim that there is no better ear protection than earmuff type models and that ear plugs are simply a cheap temporary fix, we're here to share with you a variety of comparable electronic ear plugs that perform just as well as earmuff models. For the purpose of this buyer's guide we will be speaking solely about active or otherwise known as electronic ear plugs. The temporary cheap fix earplug we mentioned, that we would've advise buying for reliable hearing protection, are passive disposable earplugs; commonly made of silicon, foam or wax, only acting to block out noise rather than amplify it. Passive ear plugs work great for blocking out dangerous sounds however have no electronic circuit meaning that while wearing passive ear plugs your situational awareness is quite limited.

If you're not sure what to look for in the best pair of electronic ear plugs have no fear, our guide will provide you with a detailed list of all the most important must have and desirable characteristics you'll want to make sure you keep your eyes on. Most importantly, before getting into any of the features we'll break down the categories on types of electronic ear plugs, go through some of the main brands, then follow it up with the top 10 Best Electronic Ear Plugs on the market today based on our research along with extensive analysis of customer reviews.

Product Types

Thanks to advancements in technology the cost of the in-ear electronic ear plug has substantially gone down in price and is more affordable for the average earning individual. Along with a now reduced price, buyers often favor this form of ear protection as it is smaller, doesn't inhibit you from wearing a hat or shooting glasses and if fitted properly, feels as if you're not even wearing them. Now that you know why active earplugs are a popular piece of safety hearing protection, how do we differentiate between different types of electronic ear plugs?

Hunting Hearing Aids

Typically small devices that fit behind the ear and have a tube that connects to a hearing tip, fitting comfortably inside the opening of the ear canal. These devices amplify ambient sound for more situation awareness. When a shot is fired, the electric circuit cuts instantly or compresses the sound to a safe level, then returns back to amplifying the ambient sounds after the hazardous sound level has passed. Now-a-days, you can purchase another form of the hunting hearing aid, one which doesn't have a behind the ear piece. In these models, all of the functioning features of the ear plug take place inside of the in-ear designed piece. The NRR level on hunting ear protection will normally be lower to allow for more situational awareness.

Hunting hearing aids normally provide a similar level of hearing protection at a lower cost. The difference between these ear plugs verses other devices is that they may have a lower quality of sound when amplifying than the high end models. Many people end up purchasing a hunting hearing aid as a substitute over expensive medical ear pieces.

Electronic Communication Ear plugs  

Designed with the industry worker in mind, the electronic communications ear plugs are more than simply hearing protection. These ear plugs allow for various kinds of communication to take place even within a high-noise environment. Some of the types of communication that are possible with these ear plugs are:

Face-to-Face Communications - No need to remove the earplugs while speaking to a coworker.

Radio Connectivity - Combination of a radio headset and 2-way radio (these earplugs must have an in-ear mic and an input jack).

Bluetooth Connectivity - Allows you to hook up wirelessly to a Bluetooth compatible device.

Electronic Musicians Ear plugs

Great for allowing natural sound hearing while amplifying and increasing the ability to listen to the auditory environment in the same moment. These ear plugs protect your ears from sudden loud sounds and allow for crisp hearing and communications without the need to keep removing and re-inserting them.

If you're still not sure which category of earplug you require, it's best to ask yourself some questions regarding the environment you will be wearing them in.

Figure out which hazardous sounds you need to protect your hearing from and isolate the specific task you require your electronic ear plug protection for.

Take a look below for a little help:

Hazardous Sound - Analyzing the sound within the environment which you work will  ​determine whether you require hearing protection that focuses more on range of​ frequencies, pitch, or intensity of noise.

Task Specific - Whether you require your electronic ear protection for the construction ​site, on the tarmac of an airport, in the recording studio, for firearms practice or other​ task specific application, you'll look for different characteristics. For example, for use in​ the recording studio or while performing a concert, the musician would require hearing​ protection which allowed them to hear a full range of frequencies.

When you reach the section on considerations, remember back to these categories and focus on the considerations which apply to the type of protective hearing electronic ear plugs you require.

Brands

A simple search in your browser for electronic earplugs will come up with various products that are being sold by many manufactures leaving you wondering how exactly to choose you will choose the best brand. No matter how great a product may seem, the important thing is to make sure that the brand is reputable and is producing a safety compliant product. A few things yo will want to look for in the brand are things such as whether they are properly certified or not, if their products are covered by warranty, if the supplier is part of the registered Safety Suppliter (RSS) Scheme, and list out the restrictions and warnings for use and wear, among other things. Lucky for you, we've weeded through a variety of brands and have chosen 3 of the best ones to highlight for you aren't already familiar with them.

Etymotic

Etymotic (pronounced "et-im-oh-tik.") and meaning ''True to the Ear'' describes the company's  mission and that is to create products that correctly assess hearing and improve on the lives of the people using their hearing protection. Their products are for anyone who has already  experienced hearing loss, for those who want to protect their hearing, and users who require a device which will enhance their listening experience. This engineering-driven, development and manufacturing company has deep roots within the hearing aid industry along with acoustic research.

From their start in 1983, followed by the invention of insert earphones in 1984 they have continued to grow; the company has developed 100 patents. Innovation is what continues to grow this company and it doesn't look like they plan to stop anytime soon. Along with their research and development, Etymotic Research is an ongoing sponsor of a project called Dangerous Decibels, a public health campaign which is focused on the prevention of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) and tinnitus. Take a look to find out more at Dangerous Decibels​.

3M Peltor

​Peltor is the brand which falls under a larger company called 3M which was founded in 1902 and since has been manufacturing military grade safety equipment you can depend on. Specializing in personal safety equipment, 3M with Peltor, produce products that keep the needs of the hunter and shooter in the forefront. They promise superior quality in communication solutions that offer a balanced degree of comfort and protection. Their continued mission to help protect people at work, at home and for life is has been extremely successful and is mentioned often in the various positive reviews around 3M Peltor products. 

3M is a global leading manufacture of protective communication headsets for use in harsh environments with dangerously loud noise levels. What makes 3M Peltor one of the best brands out there today is their focus on function and design with every product they put on the market. With the latest advancements and backed by customer inspired innovation, the company continues to offer some of the best protective hearing products today.

Westone

​A made in the USA company, Westone has been in the business of manufacturing custom earpieces for hearing protection since 1959. Created by Ron Morgan in Colorado, his company quickly elevated themselves to the top by designing and producing some of the best quality products on the market. Originally focused more on hearing heath, the company now covers in-ear monitors for professional use, protective hearing gear for the military and products for hearing around the home. Over the years, Westone has branched out to create a variety of models from muffs and in-ear protection. They hold the notable achievement of having created the first in-ear musicians monitor hearing ear piece. Known as ''The InEar Expert'' they have now become masters in audio tech.

Overview of the Top 5 Product Models - Electronic Earplug Reviews

Not all electronic ear plugs come with identical features and benefits or to serve the same protection in every environment which is why we've decided to include a variety of options in our list. No matter if you're a shooting enthusiast, industrial worker or musician, you'll find that in our top 10 list there's an electronic ear plug that's will be right for you.

Etymotic Gunsport PRO

Topping our list, here's a set of electronic earplugs that have been specifically designed for the hunter and shooting enthusiast for protection against continuous loud noise. With a price tag of $299 you may start to shy away however we reassure you, the Gunsport Pro is worth every penny. The advanced circuitry on these bad boys allows the ear plugs to automatically adjust with changing levels of sound. When listening to a safe level sound, the hearing on the earplugs will be natural, as if you weren't even wearing them. When a loud noise is realized, the circuitry slowly adapts in order to protect your hearing from the dangerously loud noises. The Gunsport PRO has 15dB of hearing protection when noise exceeds 86dB and is approved for a NRR of 25. In addition, the high definition balanced armature sound drivers and microphones are highly sensitive and have been designed specifically for signal processing.

Another great feature of the Etymotic Gunsport PRO is the flip switch which when activated amplifies sound and enhances directional awareness. Etymotic's mission of innovation, education, and hearing conservation is perfectly displayed in these ear plugs. The hearing enhancement mode amplifies 5x which is great for those requiring high situational awareness in a tactical setting. As far as comfort is concerned, the ACCO fired tips offer maximum comfort.

Drawback(s): The zinc air batteries are small and can be difficult to replace.

​3M PELTOR TEP-100 Tactical Digital Earplug

Best for use on the range, out hunting, for law enforcement personal, or anyone working in an area with high levels of noise such as on an industrial site. When engaged, these 3M Peltor Tactical Digitial Earplugs with a NRR of 23dB, are designed to deal with high impact noises by reducing their volume to a safe level and amplifying ambient environmental sounds for the best situational awareness.

The winning feature on these tactical digital ear plugs is their superior ability to perform under harsh conditions, reducing loud noise without sacrificing the clarity of amplification. ​They come in slightly lower than our number 1, making them a more affordable option for your ear protection while still offering several great features. Powered by either a portable charging station via USB or 3AA Alkaline batteries. Thanks to the various plugs and sizes that are included, you'll be guaranteed to find a size that fits you perfectly.

Drawback(s): Strong winds have been noted as affecting the sound quality. Reviewers alsoo comment that a slightly delay in the sound transmission could be at fault for making it hard to measure the perception and auditory depth.

​Etymotic MusicPRO™ MP 9-15

Going back up in price, the MusicPRO by Etymotic is as the name states, designed and built for the musician or simply the music lover. Whether you're in a crowd, on stage, or jamming with friends a set of these plugs will offer natural listening quality with incredible clarity. What's so great about these earplugs is that they provide automatic adjustment hearing protection (called adaptive noise reduction) which can vary between 9-15dB based on your auditory environment in every moment. Offering full fidelity for input up to a level of 120dB the MusicPRO protects well against percussion sounds. The two mode functions, natural hearing and enhancement allow you to switch between either without taking off the ear plugs. These high definition ear plugs are priced ​nicely.

Drawback(s): As with the GunSport PRO, this model also uses zinc air batteries which can be small and difficult to replace in you have larger hands. Other than this, some reviews comment that the bass comes of slightly muted with these earplugs.

Westone DefendEar Digital Shooter, 78346

The price point on a pair of the DefendEar Digital Shooter ear plugs is probably quite out of budget for most,​ however if you are an avid hunter, or require safety hearing protection in harsh conditions and under varied circumstance, we would highly recommend these ear plugs. Designed exclusively for the shooter and outdoor enthusiast, these plugs have one of the highest hearing protection levels around, 30 dB. They also offer amplification up to 86dB allowing you to have heightened situational awareness when you need it most. The best feature on these plugs is they are durable and can withstand an incredible force of wind without affecting sound quality very much. The low profile, discreet design and comfortable plugs make them ideal. Powered by ion batteries.

Drawback(s): High cost, no off switch

Walker's Silencer Ear Buds


Definitely the most budget friendly of the bunch, ​these silencer ear plugs have  integrated Omni directional microphones with full dynamic range speakers. The winning feature on these Walker's is the advanced technology they use. The combinations of Digital Sound Processing and Sound Activated Compression work to ensure that all of the amplified sounds you hear are crisp and clear while, at the same time, loud noises are being compressed to a safe level for your ears. Powered by 4, #10 batteries, these earbuds offer a 25dB NRR. To ensure comfort and a perfect fit, 3 sizes of buds are included as well as a carrying case.

Drawback(s): Sound attenuation is not as effective as the other models we covered.

The Rest - Best Electronic Earplugs

Not quite making the top 5, these next 5 electronic earmuffs will do the job just fine.

Hush Smart Ear Plugs by Hush - Buy from Amazon

SportEar Ghost Stryke Ear Plugs - Buy from Amazon

Sensear Smart Plug SMPLUG63 -  Buy from Amazon

Sound Gear by Starkey Hearing - Buy from Amazon

E.A.R. ShotHunt™ Hunter's Earplugs - Buy from Amazon

Buying Considerations

As previously mentioned at the beginning of our buyers guide, finding the right electronic ear plugs for you starts with figuring out what type you require. You can answer these questions by analyzing the hazardous sounds in your environment which you'll need protection against and asking yourself if you require task specific ear plugs. You can then pinpoint whether you will need a hunting hearing aid, electronic communication earplug, or electronic musicians ear plug.

It's important to remember that each type of electronic ear plug functions differently which is precisely why you'll need to focus more on the specific characteristics that are important for  the  task and the environment you'll be wearing your ear plugs in.

NRR - The Noise Reduction Rating is probably the most important piece of information you should take into consideration when selecting a pair of electronic ear plugs. The NRR is measured in decibels (dB) and determines how much noise is being reduced within a noisy environment. The higher the NRR rating, the more sound the device with shut out.

Clarity and Amplification - The best electronic ear plugs are those with a mode that allows you to hear ambient noises clearly as if you weren't even wearing ear plugs.

Noise Cancelling - This function of the electric circuit reduces ambient noise to a level that isn't harmful to your ears. Normally electric ear plugs will function by cutting or compressing those sounds above 85dB to a safe level.

Cost & Quality - If you're investing in a pair of electronic ear plugs then you know that whether you like it or not, you'll have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets then if you were to purchase a reusable pair (LINK TO ARTICLE: BEST REUSABLE EARPLUGS). For a good quality for price pair that is safety approved, you will be looking to spend anywhere from $150 upwards of $350. To set your budget, it's best to think about your risk level when selecting the best protective earplugs. The higher noise in your environment, the more protection you will require meaning that the quality of the materials in the electric ear plug must be substantially greater to provide full protection.

Comfort  - No matter how great your new pair of ear plugs function, if they can't stay comfortably in your ear canal they'll become irritating and unbearable to wear for extended periods of time. Make sure you are instructed on how to properly use them so that you're aware of the correct way to insert your plugs for maximum comfort. As one final note on comfort, not one size fits all when it comes to electronic ear plugs. Some individuals may require custom fitting while others will need to decide on another model; all of this will depend on the size of your ear canal or whether you have existing medical problems within the inner ear which inhibit you from wearing an ear plug style model.

Warranty - Most companies will provide coverage against defects which arise due to faulty workmanship or defective materials. The standard manufactures warranty usually lasts for 1 year however, many brands and models do offer a longer warranty, up to 5 years. It's always best to check the manual or warranty card for specific coverage details.

Batteries - Pay attention to what type of batteries you require and how many are needed to power your device. Most electronic ear plugs use 2 standard AAA batteries.

Audio Jack - Although not entirely necessary, this design feature will allow you to connect your electronic ear plugs to an external device meaning that you'll be able to use it without taking out your hearing protection.

Auto Shutoff - You'll find that on most electronic earmuffs there will be an auto shut off however not all electronic ear plugs have this same function. An auto shutoff will act to turn off your ear plugs after a specific duration of inactivity, anywhere from on average 2 to 4 hours.

Vid​​​​eo ​: Tips on general use and maintenance of electronic earplugs, this video features the Etymotic Music Pro Ear plugs however much of the information applies to all electronic ear plugs.

FAQ

What are custom fit ear moulds?

Take a look at this video ​by Etymotic to see exactly what a custom fit ear mould is and the process to create one.

Why would I buy a hearing protective device that has smart protection like the devices in our top 10 list?

Smart protection responds with every change in your ambient sound environment. This means that if a gun shot goes off, or there is a sudden loud noise, the technology adapts by way of sound recognition. It works by cutting out loud noises and by lowering the NRR of protection in order to respond to noises from the background that are creeping into a hazardous zone.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it, all of the best electronic ear plugs on the market today along with a set of considerations you should look to when deciding between them. The use of electronic ear plugs effectively protects your hearing in every moment and under all circumstances, making them a superior choice for not only your hearing protection but for improving your situational awareness. If you decide to go ahead and purchase one of the electronic ear plugs in our list, we're confident that you'll be extremely satisfied. For the hunter and shooter, we'd recommend the Etymotic Gunsport PRO, for the musician, the Etymotic MusicPRO™ and the Walker's Silencer Ear Buds for the industrial worker. The rest of the bunch will also leave you more the satisfied; serving various functions and performing exceptionally well thanks to their solid construction, smart hearing technology, and focus on safest!