(Last Updated On: February 23, 2021)

A detailed rundown of the best hearing protection for musicians and musicians-at-heart, and how to pick the right one for you.

NameNRRTypeWith Speakers?Price
Alpine MusicSafe Pro Best Over-all16, 19, or 22 dBEar plugsN BUY
EAROS ONE Strong Runner-Up17dBEar plugsN BUY
Mumba High Fidelity Concert Earplugs Budget Pick #124dBEar plugsN BUY
Etymotic Research ER20XS Budget Pick #2l12dBEar plugsN BUY
Vic Firth SIH 2 Best for Drummers25dBOver-ear headphonesY BUY
EarPeace Concert Ear Plugs Best for Concerts11, 14 or 19 dBEar plugsN BUY
EarDial HiFi Earplugs Most Discreet11dBEar plugsN BUY
Decibullz Contour ES Best for Musicians Who Prefer IEMs20dBMoldable in-earY BUY

How to Pick the Best Hearing Protection for Musicians

Musicians from AC/DC’s Brian Johnson to the great Beethoven have lived with hearing impairments. Although their stories may seem inspiring, we cannot ignore the fact that having such conditions are extremely challenging.

For musicians, sound and hearing are more than just necessities — they are a way of life.

With that said, protecting your hearing should not even be a question. And when it comes to hearing protection, taking shortcuts should be out of your head.

As musicians, finding the best and the right hearing protection is not simple. Much like picking your next guitar or your pair of drumsticks, you should take hearing protection seriously. From the noise reduction rating to the comfort of using the hearing protection, everything must be laid out well.

Hearing protection gears are there for good reason so it makes sense to take your time choosing.

Noise Reduction Rating

Noise Reduction, as the name suggests, is a feature that allows the equipment to filter out sounds. Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), on the other hand, is a measurement of how good particular hearing protection can block out noise.

When we say that a hearing protection device has an NRR of 31, it means that the equipment can reduce noise by around 31dB.

Unlike noise-cancelling headphones or other hearing protection devices (HPDs), those manufactured for musicians have lesser NRR. The reason for this is quite simple actually. You see, musicians do not need every little noise blocked out — they still need to hear enough of their music.

Noise Reduction Rating can be easily identified when buying HPDs. A simple read on the label or a quick inquiry would do the trick.

Additionally, if you want to find out how much NRR you need, you could use an app like Decibel X or Sound Meter. These apps would help you identify the volume of your surroundings. In turn, you would be able to gauge how much noise you need to reduce.

The World Health Organization (WHO) advises not to go further than 85dB. Anything beyond that can be harmful already.

Will the music sound muffled?

Unlike the hearing protection devices for other activities like lawn mowing or shooting, HPDs for musicians should not keep you from hearing your surroundings (or the music) entirely. Of course, as musicians, we want to still hear music the way it’s meant to be heard.

This typically lies in the attenuation characteristics of an HPD.

Attenuation is a concept of force reduction, which in this case, is the reduction of the force of sound.

Unlike speech or regular noise, instruments have a higher amount of force so a lot of hearing protection was made to block that. Unfortunately, regular foam earplugs provide too much attenuation. As a result, users may hear sound muffled — kind of like hearing the music of a club from the outside.

In response to that, high-fidelity and acoustic filters were made. These filters are there to keep the fidelity or accuracy of the sound while reducing the volume level. Oftentimes, the filters are made out of silicone or other moldable materials.

High-fidelity hearing protection was designed and patented by Elmer Carlson. What it does is to match the resonant peak of an open ear so that when you wear the HPD, things would sound the same but quieter.

Occlusion Effect

The occlusion effect is a rather technical concept in sound engineering. Nonetheless, it is a very important factor for musicians to consider when buying hearing protection.

Occlusion Effect is the sensation of increased loudness caused by high sound pressure.

Whenever we cover our ears, we’re actually blocking out two pathways where pressure could escape. Moreso, pressure could build up inside the ear which can cause users to perceive sounds differently.

For vocalists and wind instrument players, this is a concept that is all too familiar. These artists use a lot of air which increases the chances of pressure build-up when using hearing protection.

If you want to try out the occlusion effect yourself, you can do so by covering one ear and leaving the other open. Notice how the sound changes?

Too much occlusion can lead to conditions like tinnitus and even hearing loss. Additionally, wearing the wrong kind of hearing protection for musicians can have the same effect.

Fortunately, this complex problem could be solved with a rather simple aid. By positioning the earplugs better, you could give pressure a little bit of room to escape. When buying hearing protection, be sure to ask whether this product has taken the Occlusion Effect into consideration.

Earplugs or Earmuffs

There are two types of hearing protection: earplugs and earmuffs. Though different in forms, these two have essentially the same objectives. Despite that, the two are used in different scenarios.

Earplugs are much more portable and are a lot more comfortable to wear. They don’t take up a lot of space and they won’t be in the way of your glasses or goggles.

Earmuffs, on the other hand, are much easier to use. You can easily wear them and they are easier to remove as well. Not to mention, earmuffs are not as easy to lose as earplugs.

For drummers, earmuffs are the way to go. This is mainly because earmuffs would stay on despite the sweat. Also, earmuffs could provide additional protection from the pressure that drums let out. For vocalists or concert pianists, discreet earplugs are more proper aesthetically.

In the end, the choice boils down to preference.

Comfort and Fit

Admittedly, earplugs and earmuffs are not the most comfortable to wear. They interfere with one of your basic senses so we can’t say that “natural” is a word we would use to describe it.

Despite that, comfort and fit should never be taken lightly, especially for HPDs. Yes, hearing protection may naturally be uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be distracting. The last thing you would want to happen is to get overly bothered by your HPD.

When it comes to comfort and fit, moldable earplugs or those with different size options are key. Moldable earplugs would cover up your ears very well and they are soft enough not to feel like a hard obstruction. On the other hand, size options would also give you the flexibility that you need.

The best way to go about this is to test it out yourself. You could never go wrong with something that you’ve experienced using already.

How long can you use them?

One thing you should note is that most HPDs for musicians cannot last as long as, say, Bluetooth hearing protection devices, like the 3M Worktunes. However, they should last long enough. A good pair of hearing protection should be able to see your musical growth. Flowery words aside, these are not free so it would be great if you wouldn’t have to replace them too frequently.

Compared to regular foam protections, silicone and memory foam are much more durable. The material is something you would want to watch out for. Be sure to research what the product is made out of before purchasing.

You could also check if the earplugs have water-resistant characteristics. Remember that musicians may sweat a lot and that can cause the earplugs to degrade faster.

For musicians’ hearing protection, degradation won’t be noticeable until after 3-6 months of use. However, custom-molded hearing protection can last for up to 4-5 years.

Additionally, it would be wise to know whether your earplugs need to be replaced or not. Some signs to look out for include the following:

  • Discoloration
  • Tears/Microtears
  • Change in texture
  • Reduced flexibility/brittleness
  • Discomfort when wearing

8 Best Hearing Protection for Musicians in 2021

Here are the top hearing protection for musicians you can buy in 2021:

Alpine MusicSafe Pro

Best Over-all
Close look at Alpine MusicSafe Pro (From: Amazon)
Close look at Alpine MusicSafe Pro (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Earplugs
  • Noise Reduction Rating: Choice between 16, 19, or 22bB
  • Derated NRR: 4.5dB, 6dB, or 7.5dB
  • Material: Alpine Thermo Shape Material
  • Speakers: No
  • Other Special Features: AlpineAcousticFilters, Hypoallergenics, Special Music filter

The Alpine MusicSafe Pro is the best hearing protection for musicians in our list for various reasons. In hindsight, these earplugs offer the best blend of everything from comfort to performance. It also helps that it’s manufactured by one of the veterans of the industry.

Alpine has been designing and manufacturing earplugs for 25 years now. The Netherlands-based company is world-renowned for its scientifically-backed HPDs.

Starting off its amazing array of features is the AlpineThermoShape. This patented material gives Alpine products the edge over any other and the MusicSafe Pro is no different. It is a material that gets softer due to body heat. As a result, it takes the perfect shape of your ears and it’s even hypoallergenic.

Apart from that, the MusicSafe Pro also has the AlpineAcousticFilters running in its veins. Damaging sounds are sure to get filtered out while the quality of music stays the same.

To add to that, it also comes with three different noise reduction filters rated at 16, 19, and 22dB respectively.

These earplugs are made for concerts so you could expect them to outlast all the sweat and harmful external sounds. It even comes with its own cleaning spray and mini box!

Admittedly, they can be hard to wear at first. Despite that, once you get the hang of it, it would be hard to dispute why it is the best overall choice here.

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EAROS ONE

Strong Runner-up
Close look at EAROS ONE Hearing Protection for Musicians (From: Amazon)
Close look at EAROS ONE Hearing Protection for Musicians (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Earplugs
  • Noise Reduction Rating: 17dB
  • Derated NRR: 5dB
  • Material: Medical-grade ABS plastic and TPE
  • Speakers: No
  • Other Special Features: Acoustic Filter, Patented Soundbore, Replaceable tips
EAROS ONE is the next best overall option if you’re looking for musician HPDs. It boasts a complete set of features with quality that we can praise as well. Not to mention, these earplugs’ design is probably something you wouldn’t want to miss.

It has a patented Serpentine Soundbore designed by MIT engineers. This small but genius feature allows users to still enjoy the full spectrum of frequency with lower intensity. Combined with EAROS ONE’s acoustic filter, you’ll hear everything the way it must be heard, minus the hearing damage!

To add to that, its streamlined shape isn’t just for show. By following the natural contour of a human’s ear, EAROS ONE perfectly covers the ear canal. All in all, it is a great choice for high decibel environments.

The EAROS ONE is proudly made in the US. It was designed by MIT sound engineers and is made out of medical-grade materials. The fit won’t also be a problem since the earplugs were individually contoured one ear each.

Perhaps the only problem you would encounter with this one is how to wear them. Due to its unique design, putting on the earplugs may not be as simple. Once you get over that hill, though, it will be worth it.

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Mumba High Fidelity Concert Earplugs

Budget Pick #1
Close look at Mumba High Fidelity Concert Earplugs (From: Amazon)
Close look at Mumba High Fidelity Concert Earplugs (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Earplugs
  • Noise Reduction Rating: 24dB
  • Derated NRR: 8.5dB
  • Material: Hypoallergenic Soft Clear Silicone
  • Speakers: No
  • Other Special Features: Advanced Filter Technology, Elongated Pull Tab, Clear color

The Mumba High Fidelity Concert Earplugs is the budget hero in this list. Well, with an NRR of 24dB and DNRR of 8.5dB all at less than $15, it’s hard to see why not. On top of that, it also offers exactly what you would need from your typical earplugs.

Starting its house of features is the Advanced Filter Technology. Designed by Mumba, this filter allows users to get the most out of the sound they want to hear but 24dB less. In addition to that, the earplugs themselves are made out of Hypoallergenic soft clear Silicone. Safe to say that muffling won’t be a concern for this one.

The Mumba High Fidelity Concert Earplugs’ colorless design is also something that deserves some love. Although it may be a small thing to mention, the clear color adds a dimension of discreteness that is highly valuable to some musicians.

Not to mention, it also has an elongated pull tab to make it easier for users to take off the plugs.

Fit shouldn’t be much of a concern as well since it comes with two size options. We’re saying “much” because to some people, both of the size options do not seem to fit well. If you can, be sure to try it out first.

All in all, what makes this pair of earplugs great is its consideration for the little things. From the transparent tips to the pull tab, it’s nice to know that some brands have been practical with their designs.

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Etymotic Research ER20XS

Budget Pick #2
Close look at Etymotic Research ER20XS (From: Amazon)
Close look at Etymotic Research ER20XS (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Earplugs
  • Noise Reduction Rating: 12dB
  • Derated NRR: 2.5dB
  • Material: Soft silicone or foam ear tips
  • Speakers: No
  • Other Special Features: Stem-less design, Multiple size and material options

If you believe that the simpler something is, the better, then the Etymotic Research ER20XS could be your best bet. Priced at less than $10, these earplugs are the cheapest on this list. Despite that, they are still effective enough to merit a mention.

Etymotic Research was the first one to develop musician earplugs. The ER-20 ETY-Plugs® were the first known pair of HPDs made for musicians. They were released in 1990.

Much like the Mumba earplugs we mentioned earlier, the ER20XS also follows a stem-less design. It also has a pull tab to ease removal. The result of this small design feature is a more discrete look perfect for those who want to look clean and classy while performing.

The multiple size and material options are also a welcome addition. To be more exact, the ER20XS comes in two sizes: large and standard. For the material options, you may choose from soft silicone or regular foam.

As mentioned earlier in this article, soft silicone tips are the recommended options.

For its cons, a lot of people may not be fond of ER20XS’ simplicity. To add to that, there have been complaints that the plastic filter puts pressure on the ears. As a result, wearing these improperly can get uncomfortable.

Despite that, these high-fidelity earplugs can safely get the job done for musicians. At $9.36, we really can’t ask for anything more.

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Vic Firth SIH 2

Best for Drummers
Close look at Vic Firth SIH 2 (From: Amazon)
Close look at Vic Firth SIH 2 (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Over-ear headphones
  • Noise Reduction Rating: 25dB
  • Derated NRR: 9dB
  • Material: Mix of plastic and high-grade metal
  • Speakers: Yes
  • Other Special Features: Large driver speakers, Padded headband, ¼” and ⅛” plugs

The Vic Firth SIH 2 is the best option in this list for drummers. This is the second version of the legendary Vic Firth Sound Isolation Headphones and it did not disappoint at all. It’s safe to say that when talking about drums and whatnot, Vic Firth is still the brand to beat.

Aside from hearing protection, these headphones are also a great solution to headphone bleeding. A headphone bleed is when the music you’re listening to gets absorbed by the recording microphone — something that’s hard to avoid when you’re listening while playing. And with the sensitivity of drum mics, this problem becomes more common for drummers. By combining earmuffs with headphones, the SIH 2 solves this fundamental drummer problem.

SIH 2 may not jump out in terms of unique features. Despite that, you could not expect anything less from this in terms of quality.

What makes this product unique among all the choices in this list are the speakers. The large driver speakers of the SIH 2 were developed to provide a more powerful low end. On top of that, SIH 2 also has cleaner mids and clearer highs as compared to its predecessor.

It reduces sound by 25dB — the highest one in this list. It also has two plug options for better compatibility. Comfort-wise, the SIH 2 is also not to be messed with. Vic Firth drastically improved the padding for this one, even adding a layer on the headband itself.

Price may be an issue to some people eyeing this product. Yet again, its plastic-metal build has proven itself to be very durable. You’ll really be getting a partner for life with this one.

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EarPeace Concert Earplugs

Best for Concerts
Close look at EarPeace Concert Earplugs (From: Amazon)
Close look at EarPeace Concert Earplugs (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Earplugs
  • Noise Reduction Rating: Choose between 11, 14, and 19 dB
  • Derated NRR: 2dB, 3.5dB, or 6dB
  • Material: Hypoallergenic Soft Silicone
  • Speakers: No
  • Other Special Features: Dual flange design, Removal tab, Multiple filter choices,

It is just right that the EarPeace Concert earplugs are the best choice in this list for concerts. EarPeace has long been known as the brand of choice for different music festivals from Redbull to Lollapalooza and even Metallica.

The main selling point for these earplugs is the multiple filter choices. Users would be able to choose between max protection, high protection, and medium protection. These filters have an NRR of 19, 14, and 11dB respectively.

Quite honestly, it is a handy feature to have especially for avid concert goers. If you’re one of those people, having the ability to adjust your earplugs based on how far you are from the stage is something you could look forward to!

Additionally, among all the choices in this list, the EarPeace Concert earplugs are the best when it comes to retaining bass quality. Because of this, these have been the go-to of DJs and bands as well.

This high-fidelity hearing protection also features a removal tab. Not only that, the dual flange design ensures that the plugs would stay through drops and tops. They’re also small and discrete enough to look natural during concerts.

The carrying case is a little too small, though, so you might need to put a little more effort into not losing them.

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EarDial HiFi Earplugs

Most discreet
Close look at EarDial HiFi Earplugs (From: Amazon)
Close look at EarDial HiFi Earplugs (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Earplugs
  • Noise Reduction Rating: 11dB
  • Derated NRR: 2dB
  • Material: Hypoallergenic Soft Clear Silicone
  • Speakers: No
  • Other Special Features: High Transparency Design, Companion Mobile App, Earwax Protection, Precise Noise Filtration

The EarDial HiFi Earplugs are the most discreet on this list. At 0.57 x 0.57 x 0.95 inches and 0.8 ounces, it would be hard to say otherwise. To add to that, the transparent hypoallergenic soft clear silicone blends into your ears.

Apart from being incredibly discrete, these earplugs also perform really well. It has a precise noise filter that contributes well to the product’s overall fidelity. The same filter lessens the ear-pain factor of loud music.

Whether you are a guitarist, drummer, bassist, or vocalist, you should be able to benefit from the overall clarity it provides. To add to that, it also has exclusive earwax protection – something we have seen a lot of in products today. This little net at the tip ensures cleanliness for maximum clarity.

Perhaps the niftiest feature the EarDial earplugs has is the companion app it comes with. The EarDial app allows users to measure the sound level of their surroundings. Based on that given information, the app would also suggest how long the user could stay safe in the said environment.

The Eardial app is available for Android and IOS.

If only these earplugs came with more size options, it could have given the Alpine MusicSafe and EAROS ONE a run for their money. Instead, its extremely small size proved to be an asset for some and a great problem for others.

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Decibullz Contour ES

Best for musicians who prefer IEMs
Close look at Decibullz Contour ES (From: Amazon)
Close look at Decibullz Contour ES (From: Amazon)

Key features:

  • Type: Moldable in-ear
  • Noise Reduction Rating: 20dB
  • Derated NRR: 6.5dB
  • Material: Thermoplastic seal with silicone ear tips
  • Speakers: Yes
  • Other Special Features: Decibullz’s easy-shape system, Double Seal Technology

The Decibullz Contour ES is the best choice to go for those who prefer IEMs that can also add hearing protection. They’re great for listening to music and monitoring during rehearsals as well.

The Decibullz easy-shape system is honestly a very interesting feature. This allows users to quickly mold the tips of earphones to their ears in just a matter of minutes. Simply heat the molds in hot water before putting them onto the earphones and wearing them. The moldable nature of these earphones gives it the sealing capability it needs to challenge commercial earplugs.

To add to that, the earphones’ Double Seal Technology increases noise isolation as well. As a result, you are guaranteed that the earphones would stay on no matter what. Also, this means that it really would isolate the noise to the best of its abilities.

The Decibullz Contour ES is, first and foremost, an in-ear monitor. With that said, it does not have the advanced filters you would see in the likes of Mumba Concert Earplugs and EarPeace Concert earplugs. Although, they are great to serve as monitors during gigs or at rehearsals.

If you wish to use custom-molded earplugs with advanced acoustic filters, you can opt to go for Decibullz Hi-Fidelity Earplugs instead. These don’t have earbud speakers, though, so it simply works just like other earplugs on this list.

But, for musicians who want the perfect mix of earphones and earplugs, this one’s for you!

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