Whether you’re on the jobsite with your new tool belt, practicing your aim at the shooting range, or venturing out hunting with your buddies, ear defenders are essential to ensure you get the best ear protection. Despite what you may think, though, it’s not enough to stick cotton wool in your ears or walk around with your hands covering them. Instead, you’ll need the best hearing protectors to ensure your ears are sufficiently safe from high sound and noise levels, which can damage your hearing more easily than you may expect, and you don’t want to be that guy who says WHAT? every five minutes, do you?
The Best Hearing Protector
Our choice for the best hearing protectors regardless of application are the Mpow Upgraded Noise Reduction Safety Ear Muffs which boast a noise reduction rating of 29 decibels and a sound-to-noise ratio of 36 decibels. Perfect for the construction site or the shooting range, these provide excellent, reliable protection while also offering a comfortable fit, ideal for wearing all day.
The adjustable headband means anyone can wear them, and you’ll even be able to wear them over a hardhat (probably not a cowboy hat, though), while the multi-layer design softens external noise so that even though it won’t completely eliminate sound, it will make it easier to hear yourself think. They are well-built, durable, and lightweight enough so you can carry and store them easily at home or on site and succeed at protecting your ears regardless of the noise level. Make sure you also check our guide to the best cordless drills for more great tools.
Adjustable headband for the firm, comfortable fit
SNR of 36dB and NRR of 29dB
Multi-layer design and sound insulated sponge
Easy to carry and store
- Weight11.2 ounces
Going for something a little more advanced, the 3M WorkTunes Connect Hearing Protector with Bluetooth are an excellent option for those who like to drown out the sound of the work site with their favorite tunes. The intuitive Bluetooth connectivity makes those 8-hour days fly by, while the cord and antenna-free construction and design guarantee safety wherever you are.
Its 24-decibel noise reduction rating is decent enough to provide solid noise suppression, making them a fantastic pair of passive earmuffs. You’ll also enjoy the built-in microphone, which allows you to take phone calls without removing the protectors, although like any earmuffs, you’ll struggle to have a chat with someone standing right next to you. Our handy guide to the best stud finders features more great products like this.
NRR of 24dB
Bluetooth connectivity allows streaming of music and media from your device
Cord and antenna-free design for easy mobility
Integrated microphone allows you to make phone calls
- Brand3M Safety
- Weight15.5 ounces
The Walker’s Game Ear Razor Slim Electronic Hearing Protection Muffs are a pricey but also an effective choice for anyone who’s frequently surrounded by high noise levels. It delivers fantastic performance by suppressing external sound well without hindering your situational awareness. With this, you won’t be caught unawares nor find a surprise waiting around the nearest tree.
The ultrathin design makes them easy to store and also ensures comfort even when worn all day while dual omnidirectional microphones mean you can adjust the volume to suit your surroundings easily. Its 23dB NRR is suitable for protecting you against loud and especially sudden noises, giving you a pair of safety ear muffs ideal for several unique environments, from construction sites to shooting ranges, and even a concert hall full of screaming children. Love this product? Check out our review of the best circular saws for our top picks.
NRR of 23dB
Ultra-thin rubberized cups for comfortable wear
Two omnidirectional microphones
Provides sound activated protection over 89dB with 0.02 reaction time
- BrandWalker’s Game Ear
- Weight15.2 ounces
Comfortable and to-the-point, the Husqvarna Professional Headband Hearing Protectors ensure high performance at a reasonable price. While they don’t boast the high-tech features of other hearing protectors, they are still a suitably solid candidate for those of you who don’t need (or want) to splash extra cash on things you’re unlikely to use.
The flexible padded headband is comfortable and large enough to fit most people and can also fit over hardhats while the pressure adjustment system prevents chafing or digging into your temples. The 25dB NRR is one of the highest we’ve found, making it an excellent upgrade from standard headphones that may – right now – be your only option. They’re not too expensive, and they boast durability that most products can only dream of. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the best tool belts.
Flexible padded headband fits most people
Pressure adjustment to further guarantee comfort
Fits over a hard hat if necessary
NRR of 25dB
- Weight14.4 ounces
Boasting an NRR of a mammoth 34dB, the Pro For Sho Safety Ear Protection is one of the most reliable and robust options around. Its industrial grade design is suitable for a variety of hazardous environments, but with the compact and easy-to-carry construction, you’ll still be surprised.
Offered in many sizes from kids to adults, they are suitable for anybody. Whether you work on loud construction yards, they mitigate noise levels around you to ensure you’re free from distractions. If you have kids who suffer from noise sensitivity or conditions like Asperger’s, these are a literal godsend and will help your child have fun with their friends as all kids should. They may be a little tight for some, but only when brand new, and you can fix this by setting them over the box they came in overnight to improve elasticity and guarantee all-day comfort. Don’t forget to also check our guide to the best band saw.
Compact and easy to carry without bulking
Industrial grade design for ear protection in a variety of environments
NRR of 34dB
Variable sizes to fit anybody
- BrandPro For Sho
- Weight6.4 ounces
A superb option for tactical situations, the Peltor Sport Tactical 100 Electronic Hearing Protector guarantees fantastic directional awareness which many standard ear protectors sorely neglect and miss out on. The microphones are not merely effective, giving you the option to increase or decrease the surrounding noise such as wind or footsteps, they are also durable, with a recessed construction to ensure they are as protected as your ears are.
The re-engineered headband provides comfort, and the 2-hour automatic shut off prolongs battery life and keeps them performing properly even with large gaps between your excursions. The 22dB NRR is adequate, although you can find options that offer greater protection. This comes at a price, though, so if you need the ability to amplify sound but are also on a budget, these are a superb choice. You may also like to check our guide to the best work lights.
Re-engineered headband for improved comfort and fit
Durable recessed microphones reduces wind noise
2-hour automatic shut off
NRR of 22 dB
- BrandPeltor Sport
- Weight1.2 pounds
The TACKLIFE Noise Reduction Ear Muffs combine comfort and performance at a marvelous price. The thick foam is soft to ensure you’ll wear them all day long (maybe without realizing) and finish the day feeling as comfortable as ever. The adjustable headband is great for customization while the 360-degree rotating cup ensures they fit all head sizes for all occasions.
The NRR is a respectable 28dB, while the SNR tops out at 34dB to give you ample protection across a variety of applications including construction work, sporting events, and even studying. While they won’t cancel out all noise (because no ear muffs can), they still provide superb results for those times where even thinking of a distraction is enough to give you a headache. If you are a passionate DIYer, check out our guide to the best wood axes.
Soft, thick foam ensures comfort
NRR of 28dB and SNR of 34dB
Adjustable headband with 360-degree rotating cup design
Foldable for easy storage and carrying
- Weight12 ounces
The 3M WorkTunes Wireless Hearing Protection is an indisputable choice for the best of the best hearing protection if you’re willing to splash the cash. It offers an NRR of 24dB while the radio and Bluetooth capabilities ensure you can battle against distracting noises without feeling cut off from the world around you. The safe volume control is ideal for an 8-hour workday and ensures any ringing ears quickly become a thing of the past.
The headset is comfortable to wear, even in hot and humid climates, and there’s no itching from sweat during intensive work days. It’s also easy to set up, with simple, straightforward pairing with your device, while the built-in dials make it a breeze to control and saves you wasting time fumbling for your phone, especially when surrounded by heavy machinery. It may cost a little more than other options, but for those who need protection all day, all week, and all year, these durable, heavy duty ear protectors won’t take long to pay for themselves. Our selection of the best portable workbench might be of your interest so check it out.
Safe volume control over an 8-hour work day
Audio assist technology for setup and operational guidance
Rotary turning dial helps you control enabled device from headset
NRR of 24dB
- Brand3M Safety
- Weight1.3 pounds
With a remarkable NRR of 37dB, the Decibel Defense Professional Safety Ear Muffs offer the best ear protection for shooting we’ve found anywhere, so much so you’ll feel closer to a library than one with high caliber rounds firing off every second.
Not only will they protect your ears, but they’ll also be comfortable, with a padded cell headband and thick, forgiving pads around the cups to prevent irritation and abrasion, even when wearing them all day. As you’d expect from a brand called Decibel Defense, they are durable and can perform to your highest expectations in a variety of environments with ease. The foldable construction also makes them easy to carry and store, saving space in your backpack when on the move. Be sure to also check out our list of the best magnetic wristband for more great items like this.
Padded cell headband ensures comfort
Foldable construction provides easy storage solutions
Durable design ideal for a variety of environments
NRR of 37dB
- BrandDECIBEL DEFENSE
- Weight9.6 ounces
Our final pick is the Mpow Noise Reduction Safety Ear Muffs which are also our choice for the best value hearing protectors around. Despite this, you’re still guaranteed a great performance, with its NRR of 28dB and SNR of 34dB, and it’s also comfortable, using ABS foam to ensure all-day comfort without feeling restrictive. The lightweight design, complete with a convenient carry bag, makes them easy to store and transport and the adjustable headband means they are suitable for adults and kids alike.
It’s the model a step down from your best choice pick, but the differences are negligible, and for the price, it’s an opportunity you can’t afford to miss out on whether it’s stopgap before more expensive model or a pair of hearing protectors you’ll not use all the time, but still need them in some situations. Our guide to the best bench grinders offers great products so check it out.
Adjustable headband design to fit all sizes
Lightweight, compact, and portable for easy storage and transportation
ABS foam padding ensures comfort from all-day wear
NRR of 28dB and SNR of 34dB
- Weight11.7 ounces
Hearing Protector Buying Guide & FAQ
Features To Look For In Hearing Protectors
Before finalizing your decision on the best hearing protectors for you, check out these key features to make sure you’ve got the right pair in mind.
Noise Level - It’s important to consider the average noise level of your workplace or environment. While it’s tempting to invest in the most expensive, most protective ear defenders available, it’s not always necessary.
Before making your purchase, it’s advised to test the noise level to see which hearing protectors are the right ones for you. Not only will this make them more appropriate for your situation, but it may also save you money if you find you only need a standard pair to keep your ears safe from passing traffic, mechanical noise, or the sound of electric guitars, drums, and large speakers.
Passive vs Electronic - Much like the noise level, choosing between passive and electronic ear hearing protection will depend on the demands of your environment. If you need complete control over the surrounding noise, but also don’t want the sound completely blocked out, electronic earmuffs are a suitable option.
If you need full, high-quality protection throughout the day but do not need to adjust the surrounding noise level, then go for the passive option. Electronic ear protectors also require charging or replacing the battery. If you don’t have the option (or time) to do that, then passive hearing protectors are more than sufficient.
Comfort - When on a jobsite, at the shooting range, or working without distractions, comfort is almost as important as reducing the noise level. Hearing protectors which are not comfortable can cause similar - if not greater - distraction from your tasks and can affect concentration and lead to drops in productivity and efficiency.
Adjustability - To ensure your earmuffs are as versatile as possible, ones with easy adjustability are crucial. With these earmuffs you can adapt them to suit your needs, such as if you need to wear a hardhat, while also making it possible to change the sizing if they are too tight or too loose.
Adjustability is also useful if you need to share your earmuffs with others, such as coworkers or even your kids, to ensure they are as effective as possible and do the job they were designed to do. Without this adjustability, you may as well not be wearing earmuffs at all.
Connectivity - While connectivity is not essential to all applications, it is handy if you need to take calls or even just listen to music while on the job. This saves time and also makes it easy to communicate with others with no need to stop what you’re doing and take a phone call or search them out.
Reusable Earplugs vs Disposable
Reusable earplug protectors are better for the environment than disposable ones, but they are more expensive. You can buy disposable earplugs in wholesale packs. However, you will need to keep reusable plugs clean to prevent a buildup of earwax and dust that accumulates from construction sites.
If you need a pair for a single occasion, it’s more economical to buy disposable earplugs, but if you need it every day, it’s best to invest in reusable ones so they are always available.
Hearing Protector FAQ
Q: What are Hearing Protectors and why are they needed?
A: Ear noise protection is crucial in a variety of environments to ensure you don’t suffer hearing damage, or even hearing loss. Places such as shooting ranges and construction sites can badly affect your hearing because of the high level of noise that permeates such environments and so it’s advised you wear hearing protectors to give you adequate support and suppress the surrounding noise.
However, it’s not only these places where hearing protectors are useful. They can block out most noise in any environment, and so are massively useful if you are trying to study - especially once you realize you’ve got such good music taste it’s impossible not to bop along to your favorite tunes. They are also handy when working gigs and have even proved successful for those who suffer from noise sensitivity conditions.
Q: What noise level can damage hearing?
A: According to the NIDCD, consistent exposure to noise levels exceeding 85 decibels can cause noise-induced hearing loss. The louder the sound, the less time it will take for NIHL to occur.
As a frame of reference, 85 decibels is equivalent to high-level city traffic, while a motorcycle, music at full volume wearing headphones, sirens, firecrackers, and firearms all clock in at above this. For this reason, it’s advised you invest in hearing protection or at least limit your exposure to these sounds when possible.
Q: What is an NRR?
A: NRR stands for Noise Reduction Rating and measures the level of sound your earmuffs and hearing protectors will block out to bring the noise down to a safe level. As an example, if you are exposed to 85 decibels and wear protectors with an NRR of 24dB, it will sound like 61 decibels instead of 85.
Q: What is the highest NRR rating for earmuffs?
A: The highest NRR rating for earmuff protectors ranges is supposedly 37dB, found in the Decibel Defender hearing protectors. However, this is more of a claim and isn’t actually proven and is only possible with very high-quality options. The standard highest rating is instead 33dB, so keep this in mind when searching for your earmuffs.
Q: Electronic vs Passive: Which Type Should You Choose?
A: Electronic hearing protection provides the standard benefits of ear protection but also comes with extra features including the ability to still hear low sounds such as conversation, and by having built-in microphones to adjust the noise level around you.
Passive earmuffs are standard, noise-isolating options that are typically cheaper but do not give you the same control over what you hear, although they typically have a higher NRR compared to their electronic counterparts.
Q: Is it possible to wear earplugs and earmuffs at the same time?
A: If you work in a high-noise environment, you can consider wearing earplugs and earmuffs at the same time to maximize ear protection. A standard pair of earplugs offers an NRR of around 20dB, and the dual protection you get from wearing earmuffs along with these can help ensure you do not suffer hearing loss.
However, it’s not always safe, as double protection can lead to drowsiness, tuning out, becoming overly relaxed, and hyper-awareness, all of which can affect your performance and even lead to mistakes and accidents.
You should only consider double protection in situations with extremely high noise levels that mitigate the potential damage but also keep you alert enough to fulfill your tasks properly.
Maintenance Of Hearing Protectors
While hearing protectors are typically heavy duty, you can’t expect them to last forever without proper maintenance and care. To ensure longevity and durability you can follow these steps so they last as long as possible.
- Clean the frame and outside of the cups, but not the foam insides
- Replace bands when they no longer provide adequate support and tension
- Replace foam cushions every six months (sooner if they deteriorate quicker)
- Noise-induced Hearing Loss - NIDCD
- How to Choose Earmuffs For Shooting - Enviro Safety
- Wearing Earplugs with Earmuffs: Extra Hearing Protection or Overkill? - Helping Me Hear
- Hearing Protector Use & Care - 3M