Reviews

Best Hearing Protection: Avoid Bursting Your Ear Drums

Prevent early hearing loss with some of the best ear protection headphones, muffs, and foam plugs

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BY Scott Roepel / LAST UPDATED ON July 29, 2021

If you have sensitive ears, want to drown out the noise, work in construction, or hunt, you should make hearing protection a priority. Whether it’s a sturdy pair of earmuffs, headphones, or earplugs, they keep your eardrums safe from loud noises. To help you choose the best hearing protection, we’ve put together a list of a few top contenders to check out.

Best Overall
Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electric Hearing Protector
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Summary
Summary

A versatile pair of electronic hearing protection that functions great indoors and outdoors and comes with volume control.

Pros
Pros
  • Noise reduction rating of 22 decibels
  • Reduces echoes with variable suppression time technology
  • Adaptive frequency response reduces background noises and wind noise
  • Adjustable for a comfortable fit
  • Runs on AAA batteries 
  • Long battery life
Cons
Cons
  • You may need to double up on hearing protection indoors with a pair of earplugs underneath the muffs
  • Slow to return to normal hearing
Best Overall
Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electric Hearing Protector
Best Value
3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector
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Summary
Summary

This pair of high-visibility ear protection feature audio assist technology to automatically reduces loud noises for the wearer.

Pros
Pros
  • They include an auto-shutoff noise reduction rating of 24 decibels, an AM/FM radio tuner, and a headphone jack for music
  • Comfortable and easy to operate 
  • Voice-assisted technology to hear conversations more clearly
Cons
Cons
  • The music feature could be louder
  • Snug fit 
  • It can be hot in the summer
  • Accessing batteries can be a hassle
Best Value
3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector
Honorable Mention
Walker’s Razor Slim Electric Muff
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Summary
Summary

An ultra-low-profile pair of headphones with two omnidirectional microphones and a full dynamic range of HD speakers.

Pros
Pros
  • This headset features a noise reduction rating of 23 decibels
  • A quick .02 second response time to reduce loud noises to a safe level
  • They fold up compactly and easily 
  • Include a soft and padded headband that is fully adjustable
Cons
Cons
  • Mono sound system
  • Smaller earcups
  • Sound quality for music could be louder
Honorable Mention
Walker’s Razor Slim Electric Muff

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Best Hearing Protection Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector

Protect your ears with these high-quality muffs. They feature variable suppression time to reduce echoes indoors. This adaptive frequency response also works to reduce background noise so that you can have conversations and hear commands better. You can wear these for both indoor and outdoor activities. They have a noise reduction rating of 22 decibels. What makes these muffs stand out is that the microphones are recessed to prevent wind noise and damage. You’ll also appreciate the adjustable headband that has added padding for a more comfortable fit. 


One drawback of these muffs is that the required two AAA batteries aren’t included. You’ll need to buy these before the muffs will work. Their noise suppression ability makes them best suited for using power tools in your garage and not while on the range.

Best Value
3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector

Slip these bright yellow and black ear muffs over your head and enjoy their noise reduction rating of 24 decibels. They feature oversized controls for easy operation while wearing bulky gloves. However, it’s the audio assist technology that makes these muffs stand out. It will guide you through the setup, program up to 50 AM/FM stations, and let you know when the battery is running low. Use the auto-scanning feature to help you quickly find and save your favorite stations. An audio jack located on the muffs lets you connect to your device if you prefer to listen to your music. 


Unfortunately, operating these muffs is complicated and confusing. You’ll need the instructions to get them up and running properly. In addition, the pads on the ear cups are permanently attached, so you can’t replace them.

Honorable Mention
Walker’s Razor Slim Electronic Muff

Enjoy the sleek look and feel of these muffs. There are 16 attractive designs to choose from. The cups are ultra-thin and rubberized to help them stay in place and be out of the way. They have two omnidirectional microphones for easier communication. Your ears will have protection from sounds that are over 89 decibels. The protection is sound-activated with a .02 reaction time. These muffs have a noise reduction rating of 23 decibels. What’s nice about these muffs is that they come with the required two AAA batteries, so you can start using them right away. 


Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t great, and you may notice a lack of clarity. This can make it hard to understand the people talking around you. The sound is also mono and not stereo. This can make it hard to know where the sound is coming from around you.

Honorable Mention
Decibullz Custom Molded Earplugs

These custom-molded earplugs quickly and easily conform to the unique shape of your ear. This creates a perfect seal that won’t hurt you or fall out. All you have to do is heat the plugs in boiling water, let them cool, and then shape them to your ears. If you don't get it just right the first time, you can remold them. Your earplugs will come with two custom molds, three sets of flange tips in three sizes, and foam tips. You can wear these plugs for superior ear protection while working, at concerts, shooting, traveling, or any other loud activity. 


Unfortunately, these plugs are not an unpack-and-wear type of system. You will need to put in a bit of effort to shape them. Dealing with hot thermoplastic can be unpleasant, too. It can be tricky to get them shaped just right.

Honorable Mention
Band Lightweight Silicone Earplugs

These lightweight silicone earplugs come attached to a plastic band that wraps around your head. You’ll find them soft yet durable, making them comfortable enough for all-day wear. You’ll get 16 sets, which are enough to outfit your entire team, friend group, or work crew. These earplugs stand out because they have a Christmas tree shape to the flange that sits in your ear canal. This gives you the perfect balance of protection and hearing ability. The material is anti-slip, so you don’t have to worry about them falling out. You can wear the plastic band over your head while in use or around your neck when not. The earplugs are replaceable when needed. 


The universal fit may not be comfortable for those with particularly small or large ear canals. You also won’t get replacement earplugs, so you’ll need to buy those separately.

Honorable Mention
3M Pro-Grade Noise-Reducing Earmuff

Enjoy professional-grade ear protection with these bright red and black ear muffs. They are constructed of plastic and metal for lasting durability. The noise reduction rating is an impressive 30 decibels. The headband has a steel wire to help it hold its shape. Rubber over-mold and venting ensures that it stays comfortable. You’ll appreciate that the headband is adjustable, reducing the tension on the typical pressure points. This gives you all-day wearing comfort. 


One drawback of these muffs is that the cushioning on the ear cups isn’t very durable. This can lead to them cracking and peeling. The metal in the headpiece can come out, requiring you to put it back or have it poke you in the head and be uncomfortable.

Honorable Mention
Prohear 037 Bluetooth Headphones

Enjoy the latest technology with these protective earmuffs. They come with Bluetooth 5.0 technology that lets you sync your smartphone. It has a broad range and impressive sound quality. This lets you leave your phone in a safe place while you move about your garage, driveway, or worksite. You’ll have an 80-foot range. To protect your ears, these muffs are noise reduction rated at 25 decibels. They have a built-in 1500 mah lithium battery for long-lasting operation. An included charging cable makes it fast and easy to charge the battery for your next use. The headband and ear cup cushions are soft and breathable. You’ll also appreciate the raised controls that are easy to operate while wearing gloves. 


One drawback of these muffs is that the speakers aren't top quality, so you may notice some distortion or lack of clarity when listening to music.

Honorable Mention
ISOtunes LINK Bluetooth Hearing Protection

Reduce noise and protect your ears with these noise-isolating ear muffs. They have a noise reduction rating of 23 decibels. Built into the ear cups is SafeMax Technology that has an 85-decibel limiter to ensure your music is always at a safe listening volume. You’ll have over 14 hours of listening time with the included lithium-ion battery or 28 hours of listening time with three AAA batteries. Use the wireless Bluetooth 4.2 technology to connect to any of your devices. Oversized buttons on the side of the ear cups make them easy to operate. You’ll also appreciate their IPX4 water resistance rating, making them more durable. 


Unfortunately, the charging port isn’t durable and may sink into the ear cup. Thankfully, you can still use them with replaceable batteries. You may also find the call quality not as clear as to when on your phone.

Tips

  • To help reduce loud noises, select a brand of safety earmuffs that let you play or stream music.
  • Brightly colored headphones will be more visible and will allow other people to see you better. This is very useful for contractors or those who work in construction.
  • There are several types of hearing protection, such as earplugs, headphones, earmuffs and semi-insert earplugs. Earplugs are typically made out of a moldable foam material that can be inserted into the ear canal, while muffs and phones go directly over your ears.
  • Many headphones are foldable and can be fit into a compact space for added convenience.
  • Ear protectors should be comfortable so look for ones with large padded earpieces that act as protective ear cushions. By using the adjustable headband, they should be able to conform to any size head with ease.

FAQs

Q: What is a dangerous decibel level?

A: When you are choosing hearing protection, consider the noise levels that need to be filtered out. For instance, a conversation is about 60 decibels (dB), while sounds at 85 dB or above are considered dangerous for your ears. Heavy machinery, motors, and construction sites tend to be between 70 to 90 dB. Mowing the lawn or riding a motorcycle can reach up to 120 dB. Gunshots are rated in the 140s and maybe even louder at an indoor shooting range.

Q: What can I do to take care of my hearing protection products?

A: For more robust and heavy-duty protection like headphones or muffs, keep them in a case when they are not in use. If you notice any cracking or splitting in the earmuffs, you should replace them. Foam earplugs tend to not last as long and may only last a few hours at most. They aren’t particularly comfortable and can deform more easily. They should come with a case, and make sure your hands and ears are clean so the product lasts longer.

Q: How often should my hearing be tested?

A: If you work around a lot of loud hazardous noises, you should have your hearing checked annually. If you spend long periods of time around dangerous sound levels, it could lead to hearing damage. You should also get your hearing checked if you develop consistent ringing in your ears. This may be tinnitus, and you should go to the doctor immediately.

Final Thoughts

To better protect your ears and hear more clearly on the job, consider electronic earmuffs such as the Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electric Hearing Protector.

You can also save a bit of cash and check out the 3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector for its high noise reduction rating and lower cost.